Iran’s 10-Year Nuclear Freeze: Rhetorical or Realistic?

Those who have not been keeping up with the saga that is theUS-Iran nuclear talks should note that a recent proposal has gained traction among the two countries and international observers. Against sanctions, international pressure, and Israeli covert operations, Iran has been facing the prospect of shutting down its nuclear program for 20 years in order to allay fears concerning the current Islamist government’s intentions. All that has changed with a recent idea of allowing the country to stop its nuclear program for only 10 years, after which the restriction will be lifted and it can continue.

US treaty negotiators likely believe that a temporary ban on the nuclear program is the best way for other random events (like the death of the current supreme ruler of Iran) to change the country’s desires for weapons. The question has been for how long. Members of President Obama’s foreign relations team, including Secretary of State Kerry, have recently put forth the aforementioned proposal in light of the stagnant conversation with Tehran. Supporters of the deal see that 10 years is ample time to defuse the buildup of nuclear capabilities in Iran and would go far in getting at least some deal done before the new president comes to power and the progress in negotiations reset.

Opponents of this new compromise, including many Republicans in Congress, think that the decade-long ban on nuclear research and buildup is not long enough to stop Iran’s ambition for nuclear weapons. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu also is against only a 10-year delay, citing fears that Iran is already so close to a breakthrough in its program that a short delay isn’t enough to reverse the progress already made.

Whatever the outcome, the negotiations have some strict deadlines. The two countries must come to an agreement by the end of March to be signed by the end of June. If the March deadline is not met, new sanctions will trigger against Iran. Either way, it seems as though the public is tired of the fruitless talks that began 7 years ago when Obama assumed power. We can be confident that some deal, however insignificant in the end, will be reached to prevent the entire thing from being a complete waste of time.

—Rushi Patel