Allowing Iran to keep its enrichment capability would do serious damage to global nonproliferation norm
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Perhaps the greatest proliferation threat posed by a latent nuclear Iran, however, is damage to the broader nuclear nonproliferation regime. The United States has enforced a policy of preventing the spread of sensitive nuclear technology to new states since the 1970s. India’s “peaceful nuclear explosion” in 1974 brought home the ease with which supposedly civilian nuclear technologies could be converted to military purposes. In response, the United States spearheaded an international effort to control the spread of sensitive fuel-cycle facilities like uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing, which resulted in the creation of new international institutions such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group. In addition, the United States has brought direct, unilateral pressure to bear on countries intent on developing sensitive technologies, including its own allies. In the 1970s, for example, the United States pressured Seoul and Taipei to abandon incipient reprocessing programs. More recently, the United States has considered making the formal renouncement of future enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) capabilities a prerequisite for any civil nuclear cooperation with Washington, and, in 2009, the United Arab Emirates signed up to this new, so-called “gold standard” for peaceful nuclear cooperation. At present, Seoul is expressing an interest in developing plutonium reprocessing capabilities for legitimate applications, but Washington is putting up resistance, citing the proliferation risk.
Acquiescing to the Iranian nuclear deal would reverse the decades long U.S. nonproliferation strategy of attempting to limit the spread of sensitive nuclear technology by allowing Iran to retain the ability to enrich uranium. The likely consequence of the completion of the deal is that other countries will demand the same capability, including Saudi Arabia.