|New York Times, January 17, 2016 |
A Safer World, Thanks to the Iran Deal
|New York Times, May 7, 1992 |
North Korea Defuses Nuclear Fear
The International Atomic Energy Agency verified on Saturday that Iran has shipped over 8.5 tons of enriched uranium to Russia so Iran can’t use that in bomb-making, disabled more than 12,000 centrifuges and poured concrete into the core of a reactor at Arak designed to produce plutonium.
On Sunday, President Obama hailed these steps as having “cut off every single path Iran could have used to build a bomb” and noted that engagement with Iran has created a “window to try to resolve important issues.” Most important of all, he said, “We’ve achieved this historic progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle East.”
Still, there are daunting challenges ahead, including ensuring the deal is strictly adhered to, an obligation for the United States, Russia, China and Europe. Cheating should be much harder, given that Iran will be subjected to continuous and intrusive monitoring by the I.A.E.A. of its nuclear enrichment facilities, centrifuge production and uranium mines. And even if the Iranians were to attempt to produce enough nuclear fuel for a bomb, it will now take them more than a year to do so. Before the agreement, that breakout time was two to three months.
The deal is a testament to patient diplomacy and President Obama’s visionary determination to pursue a negotiated solution to the nuclear threat, despite relentless attempts by his political opponents to sabotage the initiative. After more than 30 years of hostility between the two countries, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who took office in 2013, pursued the nuclear deal and its implementation with a pragmatic and constructive attitude.
North Korea has lifted the veil from its nuclear programs, thereby lifting hopes that it is renouncing any ambitions to develop nuclear arms. Long considered a potential nuclear renegade, North Korea has now provided the International Atomic Energy Agency with key details of its nuclear facilities, including a suspected reprocessing plant at Yongbyon. That will permit early inspections of the sites. Improved trade and diplomatic ties with the U.S., South Korea and Japan will surely follow, satisfying North Korea's needs.
Under a nuclear safeguards agreement with the I.A.E.A. that went into effect last month, Pyongyang is obliged to open all its nuclear sites to inspectors. To facilitate those inspections it is supposed to provide design data for all sites that handle uranium or plutonium, including those under construction or planned. It has now done so.
The sites include a laboratory at Yongbyon "designed for research on the separation of uranium and plutonium." This is believed to be the worrisome reprocessing plant, which some believe has the potential to turn out weapons-grade nuclear material in substantial quantities. That facility will be inspected by the I.A.E.A. in coming weeks. Under an agreement with South Korea, the North will then have to dismantle it.
Both North and South Korea now need to agree to carry out their own mutual inspections of suspect nuclear sites, going even beyond I.A.E.A. inspections in dispelling nuclear fears.
Should the inspections proceed without a hitch, they would convince even the skeptics that all of Korea is nuclear-free. That would vindicate those in the Bush Administration, in Seoul and in Tokyo who sought to resolve the nuclear issue diplomatically.
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