On the 14th December, The Henry Jackson Society hosted “Defusing Global Nuclear Threats: The Iran Deal and its Aftermath” featuring Thomas Countryman, Assistant Secretary for International Security and Non-proliferation at the US Department of State.
Mr. Countryman began the event by explaining the Obama administration’s stance on Nuclear weapons. He argued that preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is a moral duty and an essential goal for world powers to work towards. He then moved on to claim that non-proliferation treaties are humanitarian issues and not solely security agreements. Mr. Countryman also noted that since 1967 the number of nuclear weapons has decreased by 85%, representing a positive step in world affairs.
Mr. Countryman then discussed the recent nuclear agreement with Iran. He argued that one of the greatest global threats was an Iran with nuclear weapons. He stated that the deal had curtailed the likelihood of this occurring in the near future. Mr. Countryman said that 20% of Iran’s supply of enriched uranium had been eliminated and that any further enrichment would require Iran to create a covert supply chain. Alongside this, all of Iran’s underground enrichment has been halted and the reactor at Arak will be redesigned to ensure no weapons grade plutonium can be produced. He noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency had the ability to inspect numerous sights to guarantee compliance. This oversight has been combined with the capability for sanctions to ‘snapback’ upon indication that Iran is flouting its responsibilities.
Mr. Countryman asserted that the deal is the strongest nuclear agreement in history. It has succeeded in removing a destabilising element from the Middle East and has furthered Obama’s goal of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. He then considered the future of the agreement. He felt that it would be vital for any incumbent President to adhere to the deal. To unilaterally re-impose sanctions could risk allies and adversaries considering the US as an unreliable negotiating partner and could inadvertently strengthen Iran. He argued that Iran had incentives to comply with the agreement due to the lifting of sanctions. Mr. Countryman said that the ending of the sanctions regime is what gave the deal a humanitarian aspect as well as being a vital non-proliferation agreement.