Expert Mark Fitzpatrick’s Take on the Iran Nuclear Agreement

In a post on Tuesday, I examined Monday’s address by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague to the House of Commons and the ensuing debate with members of Parliament. One remarkable moment in the exchange, which I did not mention in my earlier post, included a reference to a leading nonproliferation expert from the NGO community, Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of the Non-proliferation and Disarmament Programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

A Member of Parliament, Crispin Blunt of the Conservative party, asked whether Hague agreed with comments favoring the agreement made by “Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear proliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who has often backed what Israel has had to say about Iran”? To which Hague replied, “Yes, I heard some of Mark Fitzpatrick’s comments yesterday in the media. I thought they were well informed and balanced in coming to the conclusion that it was a good deal. He did so on the basis of the analysis carried out in the IISS.”

With attention being driven to Mark’s statements in the press, he has since written a post on the topic. I recommend reading it, and I also recommend an interview Mark gave to the pan-Arab newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat. Here is an interesting excerpt from that interview:

Q: Why do you think Iran conceded so much now, particularly given their refusal to give up any ground in previous rounds of negotiations?

Iran made these concessions because of two reasons: Firstly, it wants to escape the pain of sanctions and become a normal country that is not despised by the advanced nations of the world. Secondly, Iran realizes that it already has accomplished most of what it needed in order to have a nuclear hedging strategy. It can still build a nuclear weapon in less than a year if it were to make this fateful decision. Having advanced so far in its nuclear capabilities, Iran can now afford to relax and accept some compromises.

Q: Does this deal truly block Iran’s path to nuclear weapons as President Obama claimed in his statement?

The deal does not block Iran’s path to nuclear weapons but it doubles the time it would take. Doubling the break-out time means that other countries would know in time to take action to stop it.

Q: What should we expect to happen over the course of the next six months?

In the next six months the parties will strive to achieve a longer-term deal. This will be more difficult, because it will require more concessions from both sides—concessions that would be strongly opposed by the hardliners in each capital. I am not optimistic that a longer-term deal can be achieved.

Just Security will continue to provide coverage of the Iran nuclear agreement. If you haven’t already, check out our “Tweet Roll,” which canvases a range of different opinions and diverse reactions to the nuclear agreement by public figures in Washington and around the world. 

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Ryan Goodman

Co-Editor-in-Chief of Just Security, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, former Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the Department of Defense (2015-2016). You can follow him on Twitter @rgoodlaw.