Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI) has made public his desire to increase sanctions against Iran. He argues that the sanctions have crippled Iran to the point of coming to the negotiating table, and easing off pressure now would ruin any chance of striking a meaningful deal. Rogers share Israeli concerns that Rouhani is a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and that the deal currently offered is biased towards the Iranians, giving them relief from the sanctions without asking for enough in return.
The exact details of the deal have not been made public. However, sanctions relief would last for only six months, to be renewed or even made harsher if the Iranians do not hold up their end of the bargain. Moreover, sanctions will not be lifted on the energy and banking sectors will not be lifted. Iran would be allowed to repair roughly 10,000 of their existing centrifuges but would not be allowed to build any new ones. They would also have to cap their enrichment at 20%, halt the growth of its stockpile, and convert it to benign form, as well as allow international inspectors at the heavy water reactor at Arak. The Obama administration has said that the deal will actually improve Israel’s security. Secretary of State, John Kerry explained, “It seems to me that Israel is far safer if you make certain that Iran cannot continue the program. Now every day that we don’t have it, they’re continuing it.”
Israel’s position is that all centrifuges must be removed from Iran, all enriched uranium must be removed from the country, and the reactor at Arak, which could be used to create weapons grade plutonium, must be shut down. If Iran reaches 250kg of 20% enriched uranium, Israel has promised military action.
However, a recent report by the IAEA shows that Iran is below this point at 196kg. The report showed that since Rouhani’s ascendance to the presidency, Iran has stopped expanding its nuclear program all together. They have also postponed the start up of the Arak plant and have not installed any additional advanced centrifuges.
The veritable freeze of the program and the increased transparency are positive signs that Iran wants a deal. Even Khamenei has voiced his support for the negotiations. These are the most positive signals the US has received from Iran since 1979, and if they are rebuffed there is no telling when another leader so progressive and willing to negotiate will come to the table. If the US passes another round of sanctions, it would a slap in the face of all those putting their political reputations on the line by working towards a deal. The history US-Iranian relations are littered with missed opportunities, and one can only hope that the upcoming talks do not fall into this category.