15.1 Did the 2015 Nuclear Agreement with Iran enhance international security?

1. Do you agree that the Agreement cuts off 'every pathway to a nuclear weapon' for Iran?

  • Those who believe in the above statement – at least temporarily – stress that the material possibility of building Iranian nuclear weapons was severely impeded by the Nuclear Agreement. Thus, the agreement reduced Iran's uranium-enrichment centrifuges from 20,000 to 6,104 for 10 years; it barred Iran from enriching uranium above 3.37 per cent for 15 years; and it required Iran to sell 98 per cent of its stockpile of uranium. Further, it restricted the sale of ballistic missile technology to Iran for eight years.
  • Of course, realists, for example, might claim that this bargain will only be maintained on either end if this is in states' national interests, not least because the construction of nuclear arms may be seen as self-defence, given the geopolitical environment of the Middle East. Further, sceptics argue that during the negotiation talks many concessions were made in favour of the Iranian government, which present crucial preventative issues.

2. Why are Israel and some of the Gulf States so concerned about the Agreement?

  • This is mostly related to geopolitical and historical reasons. On the one hand, Israel has perceived Iran to be one of the greatest threats to its national and ideational security. While this has mostly played out in threatening and securitizing discourse presented on the radio and in social media networks, it illustrates underlying political tension among these two states. On the other hand, Iran is perceived to be the main rival of some of the Gulf States, particularly Iraq. This is embedded in the early 1960s where the nationalist Gulf State, Iraq, emerged as a rising power, ideationally contrasting the continuously Islamic Republic of Iran.

3. Do you feel the Agreement enhances or undermines international security?

  • Those who claim that this Agreement will foster international security have stressed the importance of arms control to maintain international order. In this sense, what is highlighted is that the Agreement – rather than based solely on trust – incorporates a number of external (mostly UN) control mechanisms to ensure that the Agreement is not breached.
  • Further, advocates have argued that a normalization of relations with Iran (most notably an end to economic sanctions) will lead to international stability.
  • Those opposed, however, have argued that the 2015 Nuclear Agreement and the end to economic sanctions have only served to legitimize the current Iranian government. As an important donor for (Islamic) terrorist groups, it is claimed that the renewed pursuit of such funding was facilitated through the agreement in freeing both political credibility internationally, and economic funds.
  • Further, many are worried that given the geopolitical situation illustrated above, the agreement could spiral into a regional arms race.