Political Science Professor Calls Iranian Nuclear Deal a Good Beginning
President Barak Obama says the Iranian nuclear agreement announced by the United States and its partners Tuesday is “a historic chance to pursue a safer and more secure world.” Speaking in the East Room of the White House yesterday, the president said the deal will ensure the Iranians will not produce a nuclear weapon for the next 15 years.
A. Cooper Drury, professor of political science, says he sees the agreement as the start of what could be a good path.
“I think the first few years under the agreement look good, having read what is available about the deal, because that’s when there are the most restrictions on the Iranians,” Drury says. “It might backfire, but as long as we go into this as the start of the process and not the end, it’ll be ok.”
Under the agreement, Iran agrees to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent, close two-thirds of its centrifuges, and submit to international inspections. In return, sanctions imposed by the United States and its partners will be lifted, providing Iran with up to $150 billion in assets that had been frozen under the sanctions regime.
“The sanctions were working – they got us to this point,” Drury says, although he cautions that it’s a “fool’s errand to try to figure out what the real motives of Iran are, in part, because there’s not a single leadership.” He says power in Iran is somewhat divided among the president, the mullahs, and the people, although the mullahs are the most powerful authority.
Drury contends that at least some of the Iranian desire for nuclear weapons is a defensive posture, given that Israel is suspected of having nuclear weapons, the United States overturned the regime in Iraq, and the Arab Spring led to the demise of several authoritarian regimes.
“From their [Iran’s] perspective, things don’t look good,” Drury says, “so if you figure the Iranians want to get out from under the sanctions, and if they can get some guarantees for their own security, that’s not a bad deal.”
Most of the Republican candidates for president denounced the agreement as soon as it was announced, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been campaigning against the agreement for months. On Tuesday Netanyahu called the agreement “a historic mistake.”
“The Israelis don’t want this, but in their defense, they are in the neighborhood,” Drury says. “An Iranian nuke is not likely to reach the U.S., but it would hit Israel.”
Drury says the key to a successful implementation of the Iranian nuclear agreement is continued engagement with Iran by the U.S. and other countries.
“If the deal fell apart in say, year four, the most Iran would really get out of it would be a stronger economy,” Drury says. “If we don’t pay attention and the deal falls apart in year 15, they’ll have a stronger economy and ballistic weapons and time to develop their nuclear infrastructure.”
Drury joined the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri in 2002 and now serves as the chair of the department. His research and teaching focus broadly on foreign policy, and he has published extensively on the use and consequences of economic sanctions. He is the editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy Analysis.