The historical agreement overnight between Iran and the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, means the Middle East country will curb its nuclear program now and in the future. In return, wide reaching sanctions will be lifted, allowing Iran to rebuild its economy and improve standard of living for its people.
The deal comes after 12 years of painstaking negotiations and by no means positions Iran and nations like the US as buddies. But does it mean the threat of nuclear war is eliminated?
For many years the western world has suspected Iran of developing its nuclear program in order to make a bomb like the one that wiped out 73,000 people in a matter of minutes in Nagasaki.
For those of us who lived in the shadow of that event, along with Hiroshima, the threat of all-out nuclear war was both terrifying and real.
In recent decades, the public fear of nuclear annihilation has dwindled, rearing its head only when an incident occurs such as weapons testing. But nuclear weapons and enriched uranium don’t simply disappear
Writing in The Conversation in January, Professor in Human Security and International Diplomacy at RMIT University, says, “Today it is hard to find an analyst or commentator on nuclear proliferation who is not pessimistic about the future.”
Perhaps today is the day for optimism, however we need to remember there are still plenty of risks when it comes to nuclear weaponry.
There are currently nine states in the world with nuclear weapons: the US (since 1945), Russia (since 1949), the UK (since 1952), France (since 1960), China (since 1964), India (since 1974), Israel (since 1979, unofficial), Pakistan (since 1998) and North Korea (since 2006).
Just over half of these states adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that pledges to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament – North Korea has withdrawn its ratification, while India, Pakistan and Israel have never signed up.
Iran is party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but has previously been found to be in breach of some of its terms. This new deal brings Iran back into the fold, and brings legitimacy to its enrichment of uranium for civil purposes. It also means the US, other powers, and the international community get defined limits on that enriched uranium.
Scott Lucas,Professor of International Politics at University of Birmingham, says “Put bluntly – and in defiance of the hyperbolic objections of the deal’s critics – Iran has been pushed far back from a militarised program for many years, even if it really was seeking nuclear weapons in the first place.”
Iran no longer has any uranium in a form that can be developed for a bomb, and even its 5 per cent uranium is sharply reduced. Its nuclear facilities are subject to extensive inspections, and some military sites will be visited to ensure no traces of any past quest for nuclear weapons remain.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, the threat of nuclear was very real. Watching superpowers wrestle over ideology was like watching two kids playing with guns. Would one of them off? Would they both?
It’s true that this deal with Iran is a step in the right direction and could, indeed, be the first on a path that stabilises the Middle East. But the fact remains: these weapons still exist and are vulnerable to regional tensions and falling into the wrong hands.
As Professor Siracusa writes, “The nine current members of the nuclear club still possess 17,265 operational nuclear weapons between them. Thousands are presumably ready to fire at a moment’s notice – enough to destroy the Earth’s inhabitants many, many times over.”
Do you being afraid of the nuclear threat? Is it something you still worry about today?