November 19, 2014 | Quote

5 Reasons Why Iran Wants a Nuclear Deal, and May Fail

As Monday's deadline for a deal on Iran's nuclear program nears, here are five reasons Iran wants an agreement — and five barriers to an accord:

Reasons Iran wants a deal:

4. Iran wants to become a bigger regional power. More revenue and thawed relations with the West would feed Iran's aspirations to become a bigger player in the region, a goal Rouhani has expressed. Mark Dubowitz, a sanctions expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the end of an arms embargo would allow Iran to become “one of the region's pre-eminent military powers, maybe on par only with Israel.”

5. Iran wants to retain part of its nuclear program. World powers want caps on Iran's fuel production and research, but Iran insists on developing more efficient ways to produce fuel for reactors and medicine, which could also be used for weapons. Greater efficiency means Iran could produce fuel in much smaller facilities that can be hidden, enabling Iran to produce a bomb in secret, Dubowitz said.

Reasons Iran might not get a deal:

1. Size of Iran's enrichment program is unresolved. Iran has 19,000 centrifuges that can process uranium for reactors, medical isotopes or bombs, with about 10,000 of them in use. Western powers want to reduce the number of centrifuges to 5,000 or less, to make it harder for Iran to quickly and secretly produce a nuclear weapon. But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has said Iran needs 190,000 centrifuges by 2020 to enrich uranium for current reactors and those it plans to build.

2. Length of deal is in dispute. Iran wants a final agreement to expire before Rouhani leaves office — six years if he's re-elected. The U.S. wants the deal to last up to 25 years. “They're not going to get that, but at minimum they'll want 12 to 15 years,” said Jofi Joseph, former director for non-proliferation at President Obama's National Security Council. The two sides also disagree on when to lift sanctions. “Iran wants them to be lifted immediately and the administration is saying they'll be suspended with snapback provisions if Iran violates the agreement,” Dubowitz said.

4. A Republican-led Congress could scuttle a deal. The new Senate will be led by Republicans, who want to increase pressure on Iran to make more concessions, such as ending uranium enrichment entirely. The White House says such a move would prompt the international coalition against Iran to fall apart. “The Republican-controlled Senate can definitely complicate (Obama's) life,” Dubowitz said.

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