Joe Cirincione is the president of the Ploughshares Fund and the author of the new book "Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late."
The deal Secretary of State John Kerry masterfully crafted in Geneva eliminates the threat that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was his most serious concern. It completely stops the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent. It gets rid of all the uranium Iran had already enriched to this level. As a result, it doubles the time it would take Iran to dash to a bomb, plus it adds tough new daily inspections of the nuclear facilities that could spot any such dash, giving nations ample time to take appropriate actions.
The deal basically freezes the Iranian program in place. It is not a complete suspension, but it makes sure that Iran cannot move ahead with its program while negotiations continue. In exchange, the international community will deliver about $7 billion in sanctions relief, leaving the entire sanctions architecture in place and continuing to freeze over $100 billion in Iranian assets held abroad.
This is just the initial phase. The prospects for a final deal in six months are very good. Here's why: If Iran wants serious sanctions relief and access to those frozen billions, it will have to negotiate over the next six months a final agreement that would permanently cap its capabilities and permit extensive inspections that can verify these limits and ensure that there are no secret nuclear facilities. In short, the final deal will ensure that Iran cannot build a bomb, and if it tried to do so would be quickly caught.
It is possible that the nuclear deal and these related efforts could lead to a broader rapprochement with Tehran that could, in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s words, help the United States and Iran "manage our differences." It might not "resolve" or "overcome" them, but it would more pragmatically manage them the way U.S. officials managed differences with China under Nixon and the Soviet Union under Reagan. The United States could get Iranian cooperation on a score of key U.S. strategic issues including Iraq, Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
More broadly, rolling back the Iranian program removes the largest perceived nuclear proliferation threat. Although there is no logical connection between the 5,000 nuclear weapons in the U.S.'s active arsenal and the possibility that Iran might someday get one or 10, psychologically and politically there is. If Iran were to become a nuclear-armed state, negotiating reductions in global stockpiles would be much more difficult. Eliminating this threat creates the security conditions necessary for nuclear-armed states to consider reducing obsolete arsenals and for threshold states to refrain from beginning new programs.