Cheatsheet: What's this 'interim agreement' with Iran? Do they have a nuclear weapon?

Keeping up to date with who is saying what to whom, in the Middle East, gets very confusing.  It can be like watching an episode of the Kardashian’s and not knowing which sister started the fight.

Picking a side can be tricky if you don’t have the full story. Just ask Kayne.

Okay we’ve tortured that metaphor enough now and obviously, this is just a smidge more worthy of your brain space than Kim’s extended family. A smidge.

Today we’re talking about Iran. A nation that has been in the news a lot lately, particularly around their nuclear program an an international agreement about its future. So, let’s bring everyone up to speed.

Why is Iran in the news at the moment?

Early this week the international community welcomed the successful conclusion of meetings held in Geneva between Iran and the six-world powers- US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany. The purpose of these meetings was to achieve some sort of agreement in regards to Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

Iran is regularly the focus of condemnation for this program. America and Israel, have repeatedly accused Iran of attempting to build themselves a nuclear bomb. If this is true, Iran would be in breach of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is the big global agreement that says we aren’t going to use nuclear to blow each other up. Iran is signed up to the treaty.

This treaty does allow Iran to do some nuclear research. But it has to be for peaceful purposes, for example exploring options for nuclear-powered electricity. Iran claims this is all that they are doing, but the international community is pretty suspicious. The fear is that nuclear weapons could be used against neighbours it has long-standing tensions with, like Israel or Saudi Arabia.

The meeting early this week established an ‘interim agreement’ between American President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani about Iran’s nuclear program. This is a seriously major development for global peace.

What’s an ‘interim agreement’? That sounds more than a bit dodgy…

An ‘interim agreement’ is a temporary agreement between certain world powers for a limited period, at the end of which a final, binding treaty is usually drawn up and signed by the countries in question. Basically it’s an agreement to come to an agreement down the track (oh politicians… aren’t they clever).

Iran’s interim agreement with the six world powers is set to last for six months, during which time Iran is expected to undertake a number of actions, including:


Not acquiring any new nuclear related machines– known as centrifuges- that could be potentially used for developing certain elements of nuclear weapons (although it can keep pre-existing machinery)

Continuing uranium enrichment strictly at a level of 5% or under, in accordance with Iran’s right to research and develop nuclear powered electricity for their nation

Be more open and transparent in their dealings with the international community, and allow for greater inspections from the international community and International Atomic Energy Agency (IEAE)

In return for doing all these things, Iran will be granted some well-needed relief from the international sanctions that have been crippling their economy for the last few years. Those sanctions have basically prevented other nations from doing trade with them. The total value of the sanction relief is believed to be about $7.6 billion ($US 7 billion).

Why is this happening now?

This is an historic development because  previously Iran had refused to cooperate with the international community, especially the United States of America.

To understand the  importance of this development, it might be a good idea to take a trip down memory lane.

Remember that Iran has not always been a Republic. Before the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran was governed by a series of Shahs (kings) who actively encouraged and developed close diplomatic and trading ties with the United States of America.

The US gained much from their close relationship with Iran, they supplied them with large quantities of the oil. At the same time as the US and the Shah of Iran were enjoying the profits from this mutually beneficial relationship, the people of Iran were  suffering.

Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh tried to ease the problems of the Iranian people by taking back control of Iran’s oil. He was not to succeed. Instead the American and British governments, used the CIA to overthrow Prime Minister Mossadegh.

This lad to a feeling of resentment towards the Shah.  In 1979 the Shah was overthrown which lead to the ‘Supreme Leadership’ of the Ayatollah Khomeini. The Ayatollah wanted to abolish all things Western and return the country back to fundamental Islamic religious and political teachings. Following the attacks of  9/11, President George W. Bush labeled Iran as one of the ‘axis of evil’ nations, capable of staring a nuclear war.

The ‘interim agreement’ made this year marks a new beginning.

Who has the world’s nukes? Do we even know?

There are five officialNuclear-Weapon States”.  They are America, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China. Each of these nations had nuclear weapons prior to the non-proliferation treaty being drawn up and so they got to keep them. But the treaty was designed to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons

Despite the existence the non-proliferation treaty, India, Pakistan and North Korea have all undertaken nuclear tests that prove that they too are also in possession of various forms of nuclear warheads. It is a firmly and widely held belief that Israel is also in possession of nuclear weapons.


It’s important to remember that the only nation to have used a nuclear weapon as an act of war was America, when they dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII, leaving utter destruction in their wake.

What does it all mean for Australia?

Australia will benefit directly from this deal because it marks an easing of tensions and fears of an inevitable war between Iran-Israel or Iran-US. If there was a war  Australia have to make some sort of military contribution and that’s a pretty scary thought.

Many nations are welcoming the economic benefits that can be gained from the ‘interim agreement’ made with Iran. The easing of economic sanctions mean that Iran can resume exporting oil at the high levels it once did. This translates into more oil, at lower prices and hence, which means lower petrol prices for all of us. It also means more prosperity for the people of Iran, who’ve done it tough in recent decades.

 So, what happens next?

It must be made very, very clear that the likelihood of a nuclear war should not be seen as highly inevitable, regardless of whether Iran has a nuclear weapon.

Nuclear war would, put simply, mean little or no hope for survival for either the nation who launched the first bomb, or the nation who retaliates with their own bomb.

The world has come to an agreement that nuclear is not a path we want to go down. There is so much consensus that it makes life awfully, awfully tough for nations who don’t agree.

Whilst nations might often make aggressive statements, realistically, they all understand that the use of a nuclear weapon against another nation will inevitably mean retaliation and massive destruction and human casualties for their own citizens as well as that of their opponent.

As such, at a time when most major powers are in possession of a nuclear weapon, the acquiring of a nuclear weapon by any power is not really done in order to be used, but rather, as merely a potential threat which serves to prevent any massive attack against their nation state- this is known as ‘deterrence.’

As such, this ‘interim agreement’ must indeed be welcomed by the international community- if not for its massive nuclear weapon achievements, but in its achievements in drawing the international community closer and gaining mutual benefits for all.