Column: Discussing the Iranian nuclear program has become a joke


Karla Roasas


When I was a senior in high school, the drama club coach decided we were to perform Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”. For those of you who don’t know, “Our Town” is notable for being performed without a set or props. Instead, the actors mime.

Perhaps my feelings were but a simple indication of bad acting ability, but as I stood on stage mixing an imaginary bowl with an imaginary spoon, I felt ridiculous. The feeling only intensified when I looked at the audience members, who were evenly divided between sleeping or staring at me with a hopelessly confused expression.

My short-lived foray into theater left me with the following impression: mimicry is rarely a substitute for real action.

I suspect that the powers that be at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland have never had to stir an imaginary bowl with an imaginary spoon. Otherwise, I think that the recent Iranian nuclear disarmament agreements would have been more compelling. Following months of difficult discussions, the Joint Plan of Action between China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States and Iran, known as the P5+1, went into effect this January.

According to U.S. officials and various American news outlets, the Joint Plan of Action is basically a six-month deal with Iran. As part of the deal, Iran is to dilute its stockpile of uranium that has been enriched above the 5 percent level necessary for power generation. The deal also requires that Iran halts all enrichment above a 5 percent level and dismantles the technology required to enrich uranium above 5 percent. For its part, the U.S. has promised to relax its sanctions for the next six months, allowing Iran access to $4.2. billion in previously blocked funds, according to Politico.

Sounds good, right? It certainly seems like a step in the right direction if you are of the position that a reduction of Iran’s nuclear program is necessary to ensure a lasting peace in the Middle East.

I, however, will be the first to admit that I remain hopelessly confused about how the United States should approach its relationship with Iran and whether or not the Joint Plan of Action will mean anything in the greater scheme of things.

Much like the unfortunate students who had to endure “Our Town”, I find myself wondering if anything has happened despite the movement and discussion.

Already, the players involved in the Joint Plan of Action seem to be backing down from any real commitment. In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Iranian foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that the U.S. is overplaying and mischaracterizing Iran’s concessions. The claim is that the Obama administration has characterized the agreement as bringing about a significant rollback of Iran’s nuclear program. This implies that Iran will dismantle the technology that makes it possible for Iran to enrich its uranium beyond the level required for a domestic nuclear energy program.

“We did not agree to dismantle anything,” says Zarif. President Hassan Rouhani has made similar statements, saying that while his country will not forego the right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program, he assures the rest of the world that it has nothing to fear.

Granted, it should be noted that the Joint Plan of Action is not meant to be a long-term agreement, but an interim deal while a permanent agreement between Iran and the P5+1 states is reached. The sheer fact that the U.S. and Iranian administrations have made an attempt at some sort of compromise signifies that a positive relationship between the two states is not totally out of the realm of possibility. However, if both parties are already relapsing into the same patronizing spiel on one side and uncompromising rhetoric on the other at such an early point in the discussion, then how valuable will any agreement be in the global scheme of things?

Many words have been spoken and motions made, none of which indicate anything certain for the next six months. Will the Joint Plan of Action – and anything that follows thereafter – be anything more than a pantomime? If either the U.S. or Iranian administrations expect to be congratulated for their efforts, then this agreement of theirs must move beyond the realm of empty symbolism and generate the type of policy changes that will actually benefit individuals both here and in Iran. Anything short of that will be meaningless to us.  

Karla Rosas is a political science junior; she can be contacted at [email protected]

Ukrainian businessman and politician Petro Poroshenko and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, shake hands during the Munich Security Conference at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel Saturday Feb. 1. The annual meeting was set to deal with international issues, from the Syrian war and Ukraine’s turmoil to Iran’s nuclear program and U.S. online surveillance. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/ TheAssociated Press)