Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The First Step

The news that a draft deal has been struck with Iran is indeed good. The Iranians must confer among themselves before accepting it, but even if they do not, the news remains good.

An agreement on the fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor and the negotiations leading up to it are a first step in a much broader effort. That effort is Barack Obama's initiative toward a world without nuclear weapons.

In this first step, America has worked with Russia and France to develop the deal with Iran. Although Iran tried to split the negotiators with its insistence that France be dropped from the deal, it did not succeed in this tactic. Where the fuel will be fabricated remains unclear, although Argentina and a subcontract to France by Russia are possibilities.

Julian Borger has been reporting that the meetings among Iran, the United States, and the IAEA have included additional topics like technologies that might be made available to Iran. This is another positive result: topics that can be discussed in the future.

Whether or not Tehran turns down the deal, it is part of a building momentum on nuclear issues. Japan and Australia are discussing no first use of nuclear weapons, the doctrine that a country will not use nuclear weapons unless it is attacked with nuclear weapons. It looks like Japan is beginning to feel that it will be safe enough even if the United States takes that position. It hasn't in the past.

Switzerland and New Zealand sponsored a conference on how to de-alert Russian and American nuclear missiles.

The involvement of countries that don't have nuclear weapons is important in these discussions. The consequences of nuclear weapon use will fall on everyone, so it is in everyone's interest to solve these problems.

Hillary Clinton gave a speech on nonproliferation at the US Institute of Peace today. The text is not yet up on the Department of State's website. I'll be looking for it.

Momentum is the important thing. Even if Tehran decides against this agreement (and I don't think they will), it is likely that the parties will return to negotiations in public or in secret. And there are many other initiatives in play.

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