Iran nuclear deal continues to hold, but in fragile condition

The Iran nuclear accord is fragile at its one-year anniversary. Upcoming elections in both the US and Iran could yield new leaders determined to derail the deal. The Mideast’s wars pit US and Iranian proxies in conflict. Iran’s ballistic missiles are threatening American allies in the Middle East. Congressional opposition remains. But for now, the seven-nation nuclear pact is holding. Washington and Tehran are expanding cooperation. And Boeing’s recent announcement of a multibillion-dollar plane deal with Iran Air suggests some of the agreement’s early problems may be getting resolved. “It really wasn’t long ago that we saw a rapidly expanding nuclear program in Iran, only months away from having enough weapons-grade uranium to build 10 to 12 nuclear weapons, and we were on the cusp of confrontation,” Secretary of State John Kerry said recently.
“We have changed the strategic equation.”
One year ago, on July 14, 2015, the United States, six other world powers and Iran finalized almost two years of negotiations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The pact outlined what Tehran had to do to pull back its nuclear programme from the brink of weapons-making capacity. And it spelled out the West’s obligations to end many financial, trade and oil sanctions that had battered Iran’s economy.
Iran has lived up to its end of the deal. It shut down thousands of centrifuges for enriching uranium and exported almost its entire stockpile of the bomb-making material. It disabled a heavy water plant that would have produced plutonium usable in a weapon. It opened up its supply chain to far greater scrutiny. An underground enrichment facility near Fordo operates under strict limits.
If Iran were to race now toward an atomic weapon, the Obama administration and most independent experts say it would need at least a year. The US and its partners _ Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia _ say that is enough time to discover the effort and intervene. Before the deal was struck, the timeframe for Iran to “break out” toward a bomb was a couple of months.
Iran’s compliance and the expanded breathing room have eliminated for now the threat of a military confrontation. In the presidential campaign, discussion about the Iran deal focuses largely on the implications of the agreement and today’s limited US-Iranian cooperation, no longer on whether to attack Iran. Presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton backs the deal; GOP rival Donald Trump has spoken of “renegotiation.”

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