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Public Perception of Iran Nuclear Deal

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Six world powers plus Iran recently agreed on a framework for addressing concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Studies conducted by the Maryland School of Public Policy and the University of Tehran suggest that the agreed parameters fit within the “sweet spot” of a deal that could receive broad public support in both countries. These studies contradict claims by hardline critics in the United States and Iran that a tougher negotiating stance could achieve a significantly better deal for their side. Our research found that the Iranian public would support a deal based on the principles of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but not one that forced Iran to stop low level enrichment for reactor fuel. Large majorities of Iranians could accept stringent international oversight, more inspections, and keeping enrichment below 5 percent while Iran was under stricter controls than other NPT members who have promised not to acquire nuclear weapons. But comparably large majorities opposed dismantling half of the centrifuges that Iran is currently operating and accepting limits on Iran’s nuclear research activities. Does Obama have public support for a deal based on terms that are acceptable in Iran? In a policy-making simulation conducted in February 2015, a 61% majority of Americans surveyed (including 62% of Republicans) backed a compromise deal that limits Iran’s nuclear program and increases transparency in exchange for partial sanctions relief. Only 36% preferred ending negotiations and imposing more sanctions in another attempt to stop Iranian enrichment altogether. Hardliners’ objections may get more media coverage, but the common ground between the American and Iranian publics is equally worthy of attention.

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