A Belated Victory for Non-Proliferation

LONDON – Let us give praise where it is richly deserved. Despite all the criticism they faced, US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry, stuck doggedly to the task of negotiating a deal with Iran to limit its nuclear program. Together with representatives of the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, and Germany, they have now succeeded.

The main terms of this historic agreement, concluded in the teeth of opposition from Israel, Iran’s regional competitors (particularly Saudi Arabia), and the political right in the United States, seek to rein in Iran’s nuclear activities so that civil capacity cannot be swiftly weaponized. In exchange for inspection and monitoring of nuclear sites, the international economic sanctions imposed years ago on Iran will be lifted.

This is a significant moment in the nuclear age. Since 1945, the terrifying destructive force of nuclear weapons has encouraged political leaders to search for ways to control them.

Not long after the destruction of Hiroshima, President Harry S. Truman, together with the Canadian and UK prime ministers, proposed the first non-proliferation plan; all nuclear weapons would be eliminated, and nuclear technology for peaceful purposes would be shared and overseen by a United Nations agency. Truman’s initiative subsequently went further, covering most of the non-proliferation issues that we still discuss today.