On Tuesday, 6 October, the Modern War Institute (MWI) hosted a War Council multi-disciplinary panel to discuss the Iran nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its wider implications for conflict in the region. Nearly one hundred cadets, staff, and faculty attended the panel, consisting of faculty from the Department of Law, Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering, Department of Foreign Language, and the Defense and Strategic Studies program, explored this complex topic.

Major Patrick Grant from the Department of Law opened the panel by providing the historical context of Iran’s nuclear program. Grant explained that Iran’s nuclear program evolved from an obligated non-nuclear state in 1968 to a nation that has declared three nuclear facilities. He went on to highlight the four main areas of the JCPOA; nuclear materials, nuclear facilities, sanctions, and enforcement. In each of these areas Grant described the requirements that Iran would need to meet in order to comply with the JCPOA, which in turn would allow a joint commission to lift economic sanctions. The provisions include items such as: Reducing the number of centrifuges from 19k to 6k, converting the underground facility (Fordow) to a research facility, and cementing the core of the current heavy facility (Arak). Grant concluded with the timeline that the JCPOA entails.

Following Major Grant’s remarks, Major Dean Mathis from the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering Department explained how Iran’s nuclear program could become dangerous. Mathis described methods and procedures of the enrichment process of uranium and plutonium. He discussed in depth the effort required to enrich nuclear material into power producing material (4% enrichment), medical use material (20%), and weapons grade material (90%); explaining the majority of effort required in the enrichment process is done to gain power producing material.

To help understand the internal political climate in Iran, Dr. Amir Irani-Tehrani from the Department of Foreign Language provided insight into the bureaucratic nature of the Iranian government. He explained that the two political parties in Iran do not agree on the JCPOA and that there is not a formal process that identifies who has the authority to approve the deal. Dr. Irani-Tehrani also informed the audience about the failed Iran vote on the JCPOA that took place 4 October, noted concerns from this vote were;  the fear of American influence, the presence of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, and the United Nations resolution.

Finally, Major Steve Ferenzi provided the strategic context and potential implications that the JCPOA could create. Ferenzi laid out potential responses to the JCPOA from the perspective of other nations such as; Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Israel. He also outlined the potential for direct and indirect proxy support of terrorist or extremist groups. Ferenzi closed with the idea that both Iran and the United States have different lenses of how each country sees the other; Iran’s lens is shaped by the 1953 coup d’état and the U.S. lens is shaped by the 1979 embassy hostage situation, which leads to a decision of partnering with Iran or reversing course and “doubling down” with our traditional allies.