Why Are Republicans, Israeli Officials Upset About the Iran Nuke Deal?

Republicans are not happy about the
deal relating to Iran’s nuclear program that was announced over the
weekend. The deal includes,
among other things
, Iran halting uranium enrichment above 5
percent and neutralizing “near-20% enriched uranium”.

House Majority Leader
Eric Cantor
(R-Va.) has expressed concern about the enrichment
allowed in the deal, saying “Loosening sanctions and recognizing
Iran’s enrichment program is a mistake, and will not stop Iran’s
march toward nuclear capability.”

Marco Rubio
(R-Fl.) has a statement on his website that reads
in part:

By allowing the Iranian regime to retain a sizable nuclear
infrastructure, this agreement makes a nuclear Iran more likely.
There is now an even more urgent need for Congress to increase
sanctions until Iran completely abandons its enrichment and
reprocessing capabilities.

Sen. Ted Cruz
(R-Texas) says that he agrees with Israeli President Benjamin
Netanyahu, who called the deal “a historic mistake.” A statement
from Sen. Cruz begins:

According to the interim agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear
program that was reached this weekend in Geneva, not one centrifuge
will be destroyed. Not one pound of enriched uranium will leave

So, what is all this fuss about uranium enrichment, and why does
it matter?

Less than one percent of natural uranium is uranium-235, the
isotope needed for nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Enriched
uranium is uranium that has had the percentage of uranium-235
increased, which can be done by using centrifuges.

Low-enriched uranium (3.5
percent to 5 percent
) can be used for nuclear power. In order
to develop a nuclear weapon highly enriched uranium (about
90 percent
) is needed. With this in mind, it initially seems
that the requirements that Iran halt enrichment at 5 percent and
dilute or convert uranium enriched at 20 percent greatly reduces
the risk of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.

However, the deal only requires Iran to not install any new
centrifuges, not have them destroyed. This means that Iran could
renege on the deal and work towards a so-called “nuclear breakout.”
According to
David Albright
, president of the U.S. Institute for Science and
International Security, once the enrichment conditions of the deal
are met “the breakout time – how long it would take Iran to produce
sufficient highly-enriched uranium for one atomic bomb – would
lengthen from at least 1-1.6 months to at least 1.9-2.2 months if
the Iranians used all their installed centrifuges.”

The New York Times has a good graphic illustrating the
deal and its impact on uranium enrichment, which can be seen


The fact that Iran could still develop a nuclear weapon through
aggressive uranium enrichment once the new deal is implemented is
what has Republicans, not to mention Israeli officials, concerned.
An unnamed official from Netanyahu’s office summarized the concerns

as follows
, “The agreement makes it possible for Iran to
continue enriching uranium, permits Iran to keep centrifuges that
would allow it to create fissile material for nuclear

Yesterday, Iranian President
Hassan Rouhani
said that his country would never seek a nuclear

Netanyahu and some Republicans may not be happy with the deal,
which has not eliminated the possibility of Iran developing a
nuclear weapon. That said, the diplomats involved in the deal
deserve some praise for managing to come up with any deal at all
given the far from ideal relationship between Iran and the West,
particularly the U.S. 

It should not be surprising that Netanyahu isn’t a fan of the
recent deal. It is very unlikely that there are any conditions
under which Israel and Iran would realistically be able to meet to
discuss Iran’s nuclear program, especially given that
Netanyahu has
said that Israel is willing to “act alone” to
ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and has called
President Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

That Republicans are critics of the deal should not be a
surprise, there is a Democrat in the White House. As
Fred Kaplan
has rightly pointed out, “Had George W. Bush
negotiated this deal, Republicans would be hailing his diplomatic
prowess, and rightly so.”

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/25/why-are-republicans-israeli-officials-up

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