University News

Professors speak in strong support of Iran nuclear deal

Four of 5 panelists approve of agreement, cite strict supervision of Iranian nuclear power

Staff Writer
Monday, September 14, 2015

Leon Cooper, professor of physics and Nobel Prize laureate, lends his backing to the Iran nuclear deal, which would reduce Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium from 12,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms.

“Iran could have had a bomb in a few weeks or a few months without this agreement,” said Leon Cooper, professor of physics, at a Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs teach-in Monday afternoon. The event focused on the controversial foreign policy agreement and featured five panelists: Cooper; Sue Eckert, senior fellow in international and public affairs at the Watson Institute; Derek Stein, associate professor of physics and engineering; Thomas Nichols, professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College; and Nicholas Miller, assistant professor of nuclear security and policy, political science and international and public affairs.

Iran’s domestic record with terrorism and human rights warrants caution about the deal, Eckert said. With this agreement, U.N. sanctions previously imposed on Iran will go away, but the U.S. sanctions on terrorism and domestic affairs will continue, she said.

Cooper and Stein, who both have backgrounds in nuclear weapon science and technology, argued the real possibility of a nuclear Iran and the security threat that would entail. Iran has two centrifuge facilities with nuclear capability in the cities Natanz and Fordow, Stein said. The restrictions imposed on Iran by the Obama administration’s deal would decrease the amount of enriched uranium and complicate the process of building nuclear weaponry.

Iran would agree under the terms of the deal to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium from 12,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms, as well as the number of operating centrifuges from 19,000 to 5,060. With fewer of these resources, the time required to build a single bomb increases from 2 to 3 months to over 12 months. Due to these scientific implications, Cooper and Stein said they are in support of the Iran nuclear deal.

“We should adopt this agreement and force its provisions aggressively,” Stein said.

Cooper, along with 28 other physicists, recently signed a letter congratulating President Obama on his “technically sound, remarkably stringent, innovative deal.”

Miller also expressed support for the deal. “Iran with nuclear weapons is way worse than Iran with $50 billion,” he said. Despite the compromise made with Iran, the deal still stands as one of the most stringent in history, he added.

Eckert, who said she also supports the deal, cautioned that the sanctions are not so cut-and-dry. “Nothing about this deal is simple. There is outright misrepresentation, as the sanctions are greatly misunderstood,” she said, adding that, “It is quid pro quo for Iran to give up its efforts. The sanctions are instrumental to bringing Iran to the table.” This agreement gives Iran a place on the international stage by reducing its threat to neighboring states, she said.

If Congress approves the measure, the deal will proceed Sept. 17 and will be officially adopted Oct. 19. Then “implementation day” — the date when the terms of the deal will take effect — will arrive six to nine months from now, Eckert said. Iranians say the implementation will come sooner than forecasted, but regardless of the date, the new regulations will prove complicated for U.S. businesses, she added.

When the deal takes effect, foreign firms will head to Iran for business opportunities. But the U.S. will not become involved in business relations as a result of other sanctions levied under the Obama administration. The deal is still being discussed in Congress, and 42 members of the Senate filibustered the agreement — a number low enough that Democrats blocked Republican opposition. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell then called for another vote.

Three bills have been sent to the House, where one has failed and two are still being processed. This agreement has been called the “Obamacare of foreign policy” on Capitol Hill, panelists noted.

A key feature of the deal is the “snap-back” if Iran does not fully comply with the agreement. If any members of the special U.N. security committee finds evidence of noncompliance, they will reinstate the sanctions on Iran, likely stricter than before.

“There are no other examples where the U.N. Security Council creates binding decisions based on one member,” Eckert said.

Nichols represented the panel’s only opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. “I object to the politics of the deal from the get-go,” he said. “It is a form of diplomacy I am unfamiliar with. Reverse engineer the deal — it is not about nuclear weapons, but about removing the U.S. from the Middle East,” he said.

“This deal would work well if the U.S. was not the U.S. and Iran was not Iran,” he added.

After the panelists finished speaking about nuclear weaponry in Iran, audience members raised salient questions. The first question dealt with how a Republican president would address the deal if elected in 2016. Other questions were related to the change in Iran’s domestic politics and where the world’s focus should lie in the upcoming months.

Jo-Anne Hart, adjunct professor of international and public affairs at the Watson Institute, attended the lecture and said thedeal is the right step forward for Iran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has staked his presidency on the deal to get Iran more involved in the international community, Eckert said.

  • LeBrown Nasing

    talk about brown nosing