Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program and the international economic sanctions against it took another step forward Sunday as the two sides reached agreement on a starter deal.
The United States has three negotiations going, all related to the Middle East. These are the Israeli-Palestinian talks, the Syrian peace talks set to begin in Switzerland Jan. 22 and the Iran discussions.
The agreement reached in Geneva, with Secretary of State John Kerry leading the U.S. delegation, contains a complex series of measures, but the basic thrust is that Iran will freeze its nuclear program and accept extensive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency while the other countries involved take steps to ease the economic pressures on Iran.
All of it is subject to reversal and all of it is temporary, with the truly difficult negotiations still ahead. At the same time, the accord that has been reached is an important step in reducing Iran’s nuclear threat to Israel and its Middle Eastern neighbors. On the other side, it eases up on the punitive actions the United States and other Western countries have imposed on Iran’s leaders and its 80 million people.
Opposition to the agreement exists in both the United States and Iran from hardliners. In Washington they are influenced by part of the lobby for Israel, which opposes any measure it considers to be a concession to Iran, even if it involves placing strict limits on that country’s nuclear program. In Iran, opposition comes from the element in its politics that still seeks to promote hatred of America.
Fortunately, discouraging Congress from hamstringing Mr. Kerry’s negotiations by putting new sanctions on Iran is the presence of the world’s major powers with the United States on the international side of the table: China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.
This is a positive development for peace in the Middle East, as well as an opening in U.S.-Iranian relations, which have been frozen since 1979. It was welcomed significantly in an interview with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, a Sunni Muslim state and an American ally. Everyone else should see it as good news, too.