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Katulis: Iran nuclear deal offers the prospect of peace

Brian Katulis

The Obama administration took an important step to advance America’s security in completing the comprehensive joint plan of action to address Iran’s nuclear program. The deal represents the best of the available options for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, it avoids both the hazards and uncertainties of military action, and provides a strong international framework for stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

One interesting aspect of the debate sparked this week by the Iran deal is that most critics are unclear about what they would propose as an alternative to the current deal – it is not clear that additional sanctions would have motivated Iran to make more concessions, and the prospect of another war in the Middle East is not appealing.

The plan of action is a result of years of protracted negotiations bringing together the world’s leading powers and supported by technical experts. The core of the deal is that it cuts off all viable pathways to Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting of sanctions imposed because of Iran’s nuclear research.

The most important part of the agreement is the strict monitoring and verification over Iran’s nuclear program. Their critical elements will remain indefinitely. The deal will allow monitoring of Iran’s declared facilities as well as inspections of any suspected undeclared facility in a relevant time frame. The deal also contains extensive provisions to detect possible violations by Iran, and outlines measures to impose penalties on Iran if it doesn’t abide by the agreement.

By resolving the nuclear question, the United States is in a better position to oppose Iran on other fronts. Just because Iran has agreed to curb its nuclear program doesn’t mean its other negative behavior will stop. On the contrary, the United States and its regional partners should be prepared to counter a likely increase in malicious Iranian activities across the region as the Vienna agreement is implemented.

The United States will need an active and forceful strategy to deal with these activities, one that works closely with America’s regional partners and traditional allies. The United States with its allies will be more capable of dealing with these problems without the cloud of the possibility that Iran will become a nuclear power hovering over the nation’s head.

The agreement gives the United States and its allies their best shot at reining in Iran’s nuclear program. It offers a longer delay than any military option, and places restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities that would be absent without an agreement.

Brian Katulis is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.