What’s the Alternative to a Comprehensive Iran Nuclear Deal?

by Jasmin Ramsey

As I mentioned here, the debate over US military action to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon was mostly on the back burner last year, but as Iran and six world powers known as the P5+1 head to Vienna to negotiate a comprehensive solution, it’s rearing its head again. That’s because we’re at an unprecedented, pivotal moment in this conflict’s history. If a final deal is reached, the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon will become highly unlikely; if no deal is reached, those chances increase along with the prospect of some kind of war.

“Diplomacy is so much cheaper than using the military instrument,” said ambassador Peter Galbraith, who has been heavily involved in peace negotiations for more than two decades, on a call today hosted by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

“But a more important point is that in all these things, you need to consider what your alternatives are, and frankly, there is no good alternative to a negotiated solution,” he added.

Iran-report-cover-militaryA US military campaign to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons would likely be another expensive, resource-heavy, prolonged conflict in the Middle East. This has been the conclusion of reputable US military and intelligence experts, and no matter how much Israel beats its chest, it can’t effectively go at it alone. What’s more, striking Iran could actually compel it to rush for a bomb, which the leadership — after all these years — has not decided to do as of yet.

“What is keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons is not a technological ability,” notes Galbraith, who served for 5 years as a senior advisor to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Near East and South Asia. “It’s that it has made a political decision for the time being not to develop them.”

That political decision is being verified as we speak while the interim deal known as the “Joint Plan of Action” (JPA) reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 is being implemented.

“People who think this is a waste of time overlook fact that the interim agreement gives us a far better view of whats going on in Iran than without it,” said Lt. General Robert Gard (ret.), who saw combat in the Korean and Vietnam Wars during his 31-year military conflict, also on the call.

Under the JPA, Iran has halted and even rolled back parts of its program as well as opened itself up to inspections and verification visits by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in addition to those already imposed on it by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran is even cooperating with the IAEA on the contentious issue of past possible military dimensions to its program.

Laicie Heeley, a policy expert at the Center who moderated the call said people shouldn’t expect a “perfect agreement” because as with all negotiations, “compromises will need to be made”. But the fact remains that if a mutually acceptable deal is reached, “we’re avoiding an Iranian nuclear weapon and another war in the Middle East.”

Who can argue against that?

Photo: The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, shakes hands with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, right, on Nov. 13, 2013 after signing an agreement in Tehran to allow inspectors broader access to Iranian nuclear sites.

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.



  1. Many thanks for another rational and enlightening article. In fact, the very fact that some people still speak about the alternative to a nuclear deal with Iran shows that they have become addicted to arrogance and violence. It is clear that Iran has achieved the native capability of enriching uranium, which means that if she can enrich it to 20 per cent she can also enrich it to higher levels, but the capability and the decision to build a nuclear bomb are two completely different things. Anyone with a knife in his house has the potential of becoming a murderer but we do not jail people for possessing knives in their kitchens. It is the IAEA’s task to make sure that capability is not diverted to military use.

    Iran has already rolled back many of her nuclear activities, including stopping enrichment to 20 per cent and suspending work on the heavy water reactor in Arak. If Iran agrees to ratify the Additional Protocol and to allow intrusive inspections by the IAEA, it shows her resolve not to pursue nuclear weapons, and in any case there will be absolutely no chance that she can do so without being detected. Unless the West under the influence of some foreign lobbies is intent on using this excuse to start a war with Iran, there is no reason whatsoever not to go ahead with the negotiations, lift the sanctions and allow Iran to function as a normal country under IAEA supervision. There is no sane alternative.

  2. The last paragraph and the last sentence, sums up what should be on every ones mind. Of course, some will never get over their loss of being important, as they are in being a warmonger. How anyone, regardless of which side of the issue they are on, can, with good conscious, demand the out come of military action, as we’ve seen in the M.E. since 9-11, as the only way to peace?

  3. War-monger, Netanyahu, is hell-bent in getting us in a conflict with Iran. If that’s the case do it your self Mr.Zionist just as you did it with Iraq..

  4. Yousaf, while I strongly appreciate the excellent article that you have quoted and your other articles, I believe it is important to pay attention to the danger of the talks breaking down. Of course, from a rational point of view, either a final agreement or war are not the only two options. After all, Iran has been pursuing her nuclear program for decades and the sky has not fallen down, and all indications are that it has been for peaceful purposes, even if at some point they considered a military route, but then at the highest level they decided not to pursue that route. At least this is what the NIE has concluded.

    However, I believe that those who are pushing so hard for the breakdown of the talks are precisely planning to say that the talks have failed and now it is time for military action. If the talks fail, we can be sure that Iran will be blamed for it and the hawks will say we tried the diplomatic route and now only the military option is left. This is why we must work hard to make sure that both sides show enough flexibility in the talks to reach a permanent agreement. Even if it is unreasonable to expect Iran to dismantle some of her installations or even to suspend their enrichment activities for a while, for the sake of peace they should go the extra mile to take the excuse away from the hawks.

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