Progress in Iran: Americans should appreciate the initial accord

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It would be hard to portray Secretary of State John Kerry’s having brought home the agreement between the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany and Iran as anything other than an important success for the United States.

The accord, achieved over the weekend in Geneva, moves the United States another step back from a war with Iran and it lays the framework for putting a firm bridle on Iran’s nuclear program. Israel’s prime concern is that that program, which Iran continues to assert has only peaceful objectives, can turn into a nuclear weapons capacity directed against it, a major American concern as well.

There is criticism of the agreement by Israel, even though its security is improved by the accord and the impact on Iran’s military potential, and by Republicans, who are eager to deny President Barack Obama even this diplomatic success, which is shared with the Europeans, China and Russia.

Perhaps most importantly, such an agreement, which was achieved under the leadership of the European Union’s minister of foreign affairs between Iran and the P-5-plus-one, has the potential, if implemented and expanded into a permanent accord after six months, to bring Iran back into the family of civilized nations.

It has been something of an outlaw from that group since its radical revolution 34 years ago. In 1979, it invaded the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, then held 52 Americans captive for 444 days and carried out other unhelpful acts since then, including support for Israel’s enemy Hezbollah and Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria.

This tentative agreement toward resolution of the nuclear problem is, as Mr. Obama has pointed out, only a first step, even though it already contains the basic function of vigilant international oversight of Iran’s activities. Now will come the hard part, putting into place more permanent measures to bell the cat. There will be some relaxation of economic sanctions, an estimated $7 billion worth, although the ones that bite Iran hardest, in the oil and banking sectors, will remain in place while the longer-term accord is being negotiated.

Iran’s stake in successfully negotiating the rest of the solution to the problem posed by its nuclear program should not be underestimated. The sanctions are estimated to have cost Iran more than $120 billion, its gross domestic product has dropped 1.5 percent in 2013 alone and its people have suffered considerably in terms of food and other shortages, inflation and loss of currency value.

Americans should be pleased at what has been achieved and hopeful of a successful resolution of the longer-term problem.

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