FOR years Iran has lied about its nuclear plans. The Islamic Republic insists that it wants peace, but it has built secret, bomb-proof facilities for enriching uranium and, most outsiders conclude, begun work on designs for nuclear weapons. At the same time, it has spouted anti-Semitism and sponsored terrorists and militias in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. It is fighting directly or by proxy in Syria, Iraq and now Yemen, often supporting vicious sectarian clients. And yet, despite Iran’s transgressions, this week’s progress towards an agreement to limit its nuclear programme is still welcome.
The declaration that emerged on April 2nd, after marathon negotiations between Iran and six world powers in Lausanne, was surprisingly comprehensive. Iran will curb its programme and open it to inspection in exchange for a gradual lifting of sanctions. Speaking at the White House, President Barack Obama called it a good deal that will make the United States, its allies and the world safer. However, the details remain to be thrashed out by the end of June. The president warned that this process could still fail—and hardliners in both Tehran and Washington will do their damnedest to see that it does.
Failure would be a grave loss. This agreement offers the best chance of containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And it also offers the faint promise of leading the Middle East away from the violence that has been engulfing it.