Western Powers Sign Historic Interim Nuclear Deal With Iran

| Sat Nov. 23, 2013 11:59 PM EST

I wasn't too bothered when negotiators failed to reach a deal with Iran over its nuclear program last week. An interim deal is only worthwhile if it's clear that both sides are likely to progress to a final deal, and Iran's position didn't really inspire a lot of confidence on that front. Today, though, a deal was announced, and it appears to be a good one:

  • From the New York Times: "According to the agreement, Iran would agree to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent... All of Iran’s stockpile of uranium that has been enriched to 20 percent, a short hop to weapons-grade fuel, would be diluted or converted into oxide so that it could not be readily used for military purposes." However, Iran can continue to enrich uranium to 3.5 percent.
  • From the Washington Post: "Iran also agreed to halt work on key components of a heavy-water reactor that could someday provide Iran with a source of plutonium. In addition, Iran accepted a dramatic increase in oversight, including daily monitoring by international nuclear inspectors, the officials said." This was a key concern of the French last week, and with good reason. A deal on uranium isn't much good if a plutonium reactor continues to run in the background.
  • From the Guardian: An Obama administration official said Iran has "agreed to intrusive inspections."

In return, the Western allies have agreed to soften their existing economic sanctions to the tune of about $7 billion.

It's too soon to tell whether this will lead to a permanent deal. Iran hasn't agreed, even in principle, to stop enriching uranium, and for our part, the sanctions relief is fairly minor. Still, my sense is that this is the kind of interim deal you might see from two sides that genuinely want to reach a final deal, so we should take it as tentative good news.

It's too early to have much in the way of reactions to this news, but I think we can assume that Benjamin Netanyahu is still unhappy about it. We can probably also assume that Republicans will be unhappy too. Because, you know, they're Republicans. Steve Benen amusingly points out that Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a man who obviously doesn't ever want to be off message, tweeted this reaction: "Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care." Amazing indeed.

A State Department fact sheet on the deal is here. President Obama's remarks are here.

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