The Brookings Institute’s recent paper in the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Series covers many of the current concerns involved with Iran’s nuclear programs, as well as relevant history. Of the many elements recommended for a comprehensive and effective agreement, some aspects of the recommendation seem unfortunately hard to realize.
One aspect is the need for strong international response, particularly the timing elements associated with the non-military actions. While I can see how the initial diplomatic and non-military approaches tend to take a lot of time (many months) and how this would be a factor in Iran’s possible breakout decision, it seems impossible to find and implement a concrete answer to this element. It seems difficult logistically to go through those current structures and authorities to try to build an official commitment of what actions it would take, and within what amount of time, at this international level since this would be just for one country. Actually defining and putting into place such a timeline could be problematic; on one hand, while this process will bring forth a more defined articulation and public commitment for how the diplomatic and non-military approaches would work towards preventing the breakout, it would also be clarifying for Iran, and not just those wishing to prevent Iran’s breakout possibilities. In as much as the international level policies and decisions are transparent, it may be impossible and even problematic to articulate and specify these possible approaches. In the end, this aspect does seem quite difficult to resolve, in terms of the more “key” goal of making it unclear for Iran to calculate how long the non-military actions may take.
A second aspect is the idea for the international community (or specifically, the PS5+1 and even Russia were named) to help Iran in its civil nuclear plans. It seems like an idea that has potential to work– if the PS5+1 could assist Iran in designing, constructing, and fabricating the fuel for the light water reactors, and help with designing an indigenous power reactor and if Russia could train Iranians in fabricating fuel to eventually enable them to produce the fuel themselves. These proposed actions seem cooperative and likely to overcome the stalemate, since this idea seems to offer some concrete and specific “helpful” guidance towards the peaceful purposes claimed by Iran. While of course there is always the question of whether Iran’s intentions will stay peaceful or not, another question brought to mind is whether Russia would be cooperative. If Russia has thus far sold some material to Iran for questionable aims, the question of Russia’s willingness to cooperate and future possible actions is something that must be considered more thoroughly, in context of this idea. Otherwise, it seems that this idea has potential to help facilitate the cooperation from Iran needed to come to an ideal agreement. — M.