Iran appears ready to take the next step in nuclear disarmament. This past weekend United Nations experts were allowed to inspect the alleged possibility of that country working on nuclear weapons. Walking a delicate line, the six world powers do not want to push too hard for fear Iran might retreat back under its dome of secrecy. At this point, Iran’s position appears to be firmly set for forward progress.
A meeting is now on the calendar for Iran and the West to meet on February 18, to turn the interim deal into a permanent agreement. If this is achieved, it will be a significant step forward for stability in the Middle East. At the same time, distrust remains high and suspicions have not been quieted. Inside Iran, the hard-liners are not satisfied. Only reformers and moderate conservatives seem to welcome the agreement.
The hard-liners remain an unhappy crew. The current government keeps putting out propaganda to make these resistors happy, but little of it has to do with what they have now agreed to endorse. Up to this point, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has supported the nuclear negotiating team’s position. The problem for President Hassan Rouhani is to convince the dissidents that issues of national sovereignty have not been compromised.
Iran has agreed to stop uranium enrichment at 20 percent. Critics note that this level is frightening close to weapon grade. Iran will be allowed to continue to upgrade to 5%. They will oxidize half of their stockpile of 20 percent uranium and dilute the remaining half to 5 % value. These figures may not be what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted, but they are a giant leap forward in stopping Iran from turning the entire Middle East into a nuclear camp.
The reality in Tehran that has yet to manifest itself actually has little to do with the current sanctions. Opening up the global electronic banking system will be a great asset. However, their economy is struggling for additional reasons and not likely to improve quickly. The average family does well to have meat once a week. This will not change. Sanctions dropped oil revenues in a decade by 60%. Strangely enough, although Iran has the fourth largest oil deposits in the world, they must import refined oil because they lack modern refineries. The lifting of sanctions will not improve this problem because the mullahs have not opened up Iran’s economy for fear of empowering the middle class. Thousands of university graduates still can not find jobs. Like the Communist Party was to the fading Soviet Union, the Revolutionary Guard remains privileged and despised, costing the economy money they can ill afford.
In other words, Iran is not out of the woods, but the world is better off.