“The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five” – Carl Sagan

July 14, 2015 marked a historic day for advocates of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The world reached an agreement with Iran which essentially stops the country from pursuing the development of a nuclear bomb.

The deal is a culmination of years of negotiations and has brought a decade-old impasse over the Iranian nuclear program to a probable resolution. The deal is historic from the perspective that it underlines the significance of global norms for peace and negotiations in contrast to continued deadlock and confrontation. It also conveys to global powers the efficacy of diplomacy in finding common grounds for achieving geopolitical outcomes. It signifies that conflicts can reach mutual compromise.

When this deal is hailed as one of the most consequential diplomatic achievements of President Obama’s terms, it is no exaggeration. This is precisely because this deal consolidates the ability of the U.S. to bring world powers to the table, substantiates the role of the U.S. as the focal point in inter-national arbitration and is, in the longer timeframe, likely to strengthen the reliability of U.S. security guarantees to its allies by reducing the uncertainty in its projections of the Middle East.

The agreement – which is the outcome of deliberations between China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the USA (five of which are among the world’s nine nuclear powers), the European Union and Iran – limits Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, removes stockpile of its low-enriched uranium by 98 percent, blocks its attempts to produce fissile materials, prevents Iran from producing weapons-grade plutonium, brings down Iran’s installed centrifuges by two-thirds in number and ensures compliance which will be verifiable through an inspection regime at the sites of storage, of centrifuge production and of enrichment. While many inspection protocols will be followed for 10 to 25 years, others will remain in place permanently.

The take-home from the deal for Iran will be a lifting of the oil and economic sanctions, some of which have been imposed since the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis. The deal opens doors for global investment in the oil and natural gas reserves of Iran, which roughly make up for 10 percent and 18 percent of world reserves, respectively. For a country which has shrunk its economy by 15 to 20 percent and has lost nearly a million barrels a day of exportable oil since the revised sanctions of 2012, it only reflects pragmatism to have agreed to a deal to bring down the sanctions which have prevented its oil industry from benefitting from modern technology and investment. Most importantly, this deal is Iran’s opportunity to establish its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which it acceded to in 1967 and reduce its regional and global isolation.

Iran’s capability to go nuclear potentially symbolized an accelerated regional requirement to acquire nuclear deterrence at par. The world is already maintaining a nuclear arsenal at a collective cost of $1 trillion per decade, nearly $350 billion of which is constituted by the U.S. nuclear spending.  

With the enormous monetary stakes involved, it is understandable that the status quo which thrives on the nuclear economy will continue to resist calls for denuclearization. However, nuclear muscle which is built and maintained at a heavy price of compromised spending on human development and has tremendously negative social and economic externalities, validates the demand for global nuclear disarmament. UN estimates put the world population to 8 billion by 2024; the responsibility to sustain this population renders nuclear adventurism too expensive to be affordable in the Post-2015 scenario.

The concept of relative nuclear deterrence has an intrinsic instability. With every new addition to the existing nuclear stockpile, countries – both nuclear and non-nuclear – experience greater levels of vulnerability and insecurity. And this is what makes the Iran Nuclear Deal chiefly relevant because it makes a case for a re-evaluation of military priorities in favor of the tangible wellbeing of people.

Eventually, it is the wellbeing of people which is the most prominent guarantee of global security.