On balance, a nuclear deal with Iran would be a huge success for global nonproliferation efforts and the NPT regime
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A nuclear agreement with Iran would represent a success for the nonproliferation regime in several ways. Most fundamentally, a deal offers at least the prospect of a sustainable resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue. It is hard to overstate the importance of this result for the regime as a whole. The Iran nuclear case has been the central preoccupation of U.S. nonproliferation policy—and that of multilateral bodies such as the IAEA Board of Governors—for more than a decade. The unyielding emphasis on Iran has been central to U.S. efforts to mobilize broad support, first for a finding of noncompliance with the NPT, and later for robust international sanctions. But this strategy has sidelined discussion of other impor- tant nonproliferation issues, including efforts to bolster nuclear security, promote universal adherence to the Additional Protocol, and find a solution to the loophole of NPT withdrawal. And it has complicated relations with some states, particularly those that have been active in the Non-Aligned Movement, as the United States exerted pressure on them to support its votes on Iran in the IAEA and the United Nations.4 A deal with Iran could thus lead to a welcome turning of the page in U.S. nonproliferation efforts. Of course, a deal does not make the Iran nuclear issue go away, but it may help to put it on a more stable and sustainable footing. If Iran’s nuclear program is no longer seen as a crisis, it may allow the United States and like-minded states to act more strategically on other important nonproliferation issues.
Several states, notably Saudi Arabia, have been vocal in their opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran and have argued that they will seek to pursue a similar enrichment program to the one Iran is pursuing, raising the spectre of an 'enrichment arms race'. However, empirically, states have threatened to pursue nuclear programs in response to other states but the cause and effect dynamics are rarely that simple, with states pursuing weapons programs (or enrichment programs) for a number of different motivations.