‘Fantasy’ or ‘new hope?’ Observers react to deal with Iran

Local observers weighed the newly announced agreement between Iran and six nations Tuesday, trying to decide if the agreement paved the way to a safer world or a new Middle Eastern arms race.

After 20 months of talks, the agreement is meant to limit Iraq’s ability to build and use nuclear weapons for more than a decade, the agreement’s supporters say.

Fereidoun Shokouhi, a native of Iran and a retired Champaign County Engineer, hopes the agreement heralds a “new chapter” in U.S.-Iran relations.

“Definitely it is a positive outcome of over a year of discussions,” Shokouhi said. “I believe it will have a big impact for Iran, economically and socially.”

For Shokouhi, 56, the agreement has implications beyond the question of nuclear weapons.

“The relationship between Iran and the United States has been tarnished. … Among the majority of Iranians, you’re going to find the hope that this is a new beginning, a new hope for an improving that relationship,” the 28-year Urbana resident added.

Vaughn Shannon, associate professor of political science at Wright State University, could not agree that the pact cuts off all of Iran’s avenues to a nuclear weapon.

“I’d say this deal stalls any attempt to acquire a nuclear weapon, should Iran be trying to get one, and provides a transparent, full-time presence of inspections that would make such an effort much harder to accomplish as long as the deal is in place,” Shannon said.

“If they play by the deal, they cannot get a bomb,” he added.

Other observers were wary. Some critics weren’t confident that the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations would have access to sensitive sites. Under the agreement, Iran may challenge a bid to inspect military sites, with an arbitration board composed of Iran and six nations then deciding the issue, reports said.

There are also concerns that Iran will be permitted to pursue ballistic missile technology.

Glen Duerr, Cedarville University assistant professor of international studies, said his first reaction to the agreement is “caution.”

It is good to reach some agreement with Iran, a “longstanding enemy,” and it’s good to see that Iran’s “breakout time” to achieve a usable nuclear weapon is delayed at least somewhat, Duerr said.

But Duerr sees fundamental problems with the proposal. If Iran has a path to nuclear weapons, other Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia, will seek them as well, he believes.

“There’s the potential that the Saudis will see this as a serious, serious threat, and then do something,” he said.

Iran has more than 130 different sites associated with its nuclear infrastructure, and Yukiya Aman, the director general of the IAEA, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, has asked for clarification on the pact’s inspection provisions, Duerr said.

“The fact that he’s not fully on board with this gives me probably the biggest reason for caution,” he said.

Donna Schlagheck, recently retired Wright State University political science professor and department chair, views the pact as good news. She argues that sanctions brought Iran to the table and they can be reinstated to force Iran’s compliance.

“Sanctions are not off the table,” she said.

Like Shokouhi, Schlagheck expressed hope that U.S.-Iran relations can be improved.

“Iran is one of the most important players in the problems with ISIS, Syria, Lebanon and Libya,” she said. “By improving relations with Iran, we may have not only a better prospect for controlling proliferation but also controlling ISIS.”

She disagreed that the agreed-upon inspections regime is weak.

“We’re going to have to know what to go see and ask to go see,” Schlagheck said. “What I would disagree with the congressman about is the sanctions can go back on for non-compliance.”

Joel Pruce, University of Dayton political science assistant professor, said the new inspection regime should be compared to the access Iran allows now.

“We can’t ever in politics let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” he said.

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