On Thur., April 2, President Barack Obama took to the Rose Garden to announce that his negotiating team is working with the Iranian government to develop a “framework” for a potential deal between the U.S. and Iran.
The President came to the negotiating table seeking a reduction in the nuclear capacities of the Iranian state.
The “framework” he outlined would attempt to address concerns over Iran’s capabilities in several substantive ways.
Iran would be banned from developing weapons grade plutonium, the country would reduce its number of centrifuges by two-thirds and delay using advanced centrifuge enrichment for 10 years, and Iran would neutralize “the vast majority” of its stores of enriched uranium.
Obama also noted that the deal would give international inspectors “unprecedented access” to Iran’s nuclear facilities and to “the entire supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program,” including uranium mills and storage facilities.
The President also emphasized that the deal would have to live up to the standards he identified in his speech to become binding.
“If there is backsliding on the part of the Iranians, if the verification and inspection mechanisms don’t meet the specifications of our nuclear and security experts, there will be no deal,” Obama said.
The current deal comes after years of tension between the United States and Iran.
In 2011, the U.S. accused Iran of plotting to assassinate a diplomat from Saudi Arabia by bombing a restaurant in Washington, D.C, and in 2012 the Iranian military was observed firing at U.S. surveillance drones over the Persian Gulf.
In an interview with The Yellow Jacket, Randolph-Macon Professor of History Dr. Michael Fischbach noted that the complex history between the two countries was still a prominent factor in their relationship.
Fischbach noted that the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979 was a turning point in the history of the two countries.
In that revolution, the Shah of Iran, who had been supported by the United States, was overthrown.
The two nations would also soon become entangled in a hostage crisis.
“In November of 1979, a crowd stormed the American embassy and took some diplomatic and military officials hostage, holding them for 444 days at the tail end of the presidency of Jimmy Carter,” Fischbach said.
“Thereupon, Carter broke diplomatic relations with Iran: they’ve never been restored. [Carter] imposed an economic trade embargo [ending] most American trade to and from Iran.
“Moreover, Iran has, in the last decade, been encircled by American forces,” Fischbach continued.
“We had American troops to the east of Iran, to the west of Iran, and we had, at least for a while, American troops in Iraq.
Of course we have worldwide nuclear powers, American bases in central Asia, as well as America’s ally Israel which is armed with nuclear weapons.”
Fischbach said that perhaps the increasing regional profile of Iran has led to renewed efforts by the United States to broker a deal.
“The United States recognizes that, whether they like Iran or not, that it’s thus far a relatively stable country, a large country, a powerful country in the Middle East, and much of the Arab world one can’t say that about,” Fischbach said.
“The U.S. and Iran have been backdoor, secret allies as far as their policy toward Iraq and ISIS, so I think both sides had that growing sense of concern about that future of Iraq and Syria that was a coming together of interest, but from the Iranian side from my understanding is that it was the economic
exigencies that drove them to do this.”
Although the President’s team has been working hard to sell both the Iranians and the American public on a deal, prominent members of Congress have stated that they would oppose any type of agreement they would not consider to be in the best interests of the United States.
U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), the primary author of an “open-letter” to the Iranian government advising that any potential deal between the two countries would likely be voted down by Congress, has remained an outspoken critic of the negotiations.
In a commentary for The Wall Street Journal, Cotton noted that “Our negotiating ‘partner,’ Iran, is not a rational or peaceful actor. [I]t is a radical, Islamist tyranny whose constitution explicitly calls for jihad. Iran’s ayatollahs have honored the call: Iran has been killing Americans for more than three decades.”
Randolph-Macon Professor of Political Science Thomas Badey told The Yellow Jacket that from his viewpoint, refusing to negotiate with the Iranians by labeling them as supporters of terrorism was just a convenient political tactic.
“Saying ‘we can’t negotiate with countries that support terrorists’ is a convenient political way out of doing something that you don’t want to do more so than a realistic perception,” Badey said.
“The Reagan administration negotiated with the Iranian government when they held hostages. The Carter administration negotiated with terrorists, and I would argue that any major U.S. administration at some point in time has to negotiate with various types of terrorist organizations.”
“The basic premise is that any negotiations with the Iranians are better than no negotiations: if you have no negotiations, then nothing happens,” Badey continued.
However, the potential deal would only be a tentative step towards repairing U.S.-Iranian relations.
“In the hostage crisis of 1979, the Iranian government had three demands: they wanted the Shah of Iran back to be prosecuted, they wanted the U.S. to unfreeze the Iranian assets that were frozen and they wanted an apology from the United States because the United States was partially responsible for
overthrowing the duly elected government of Iran in 1953,” Badey said.
“The Shah’s dead. I would think those two other items would be things that the Iranian government would want. How likely those things are to happen is another question.”
The process will certainly take time, regardless.
-Henry Ashton ’15, Senior Politics/Opinions Editor