Reflections on the Iran Deal

I’ve been thinking more about agreement Obama is making with Iran and the UN regarding Iran’s nuclear capabilities. This is an issue that I thought deserved a bit more scrutiny because of the deep divisions over its value. So I decided to dig a little deeper before coming to any conclusion on what ought to be done, and I’ll share my thoughts and discoveries here for anyone that’s been wondering what ought to be done. In the news the debate on the deal tends to follow partisan lines, the media reporting the opinions of politicians without a lot of discussions on what is really at stake here and what the reasoning of the different positions are. I’ve read a number of the past few month and I will share a few I found useful with you.  First is a  I found at the Wall Street Journal’s site giving a factual explanation of the controversy. Discussing the pros of the deal, I’ve linked to an article from Carter’s secretary of defense, Harold Brown. Discussing the cons of the deal is former U.S. attorney general, Michael Mukasey.o

Now if you have been following this story you should know isn’t just leftist kooks backing this agreement but senior statesmen, generals, and admirals,including sometime Republican Colin Powell.  So there has to be more in favor of this deal than destroying America’s security as most conservatives argue will be the outcome of the  deal. Yet I also have heard few of the radical anti-US/capitalist/western left worry that the deal puts to much power in American or European hand. By in large, despite tweets that sanctions must be immediately lifted, the Iranian regime seems happy with the outcome. Compare that with what is comming from Saudi Arabia and Israel.

 So how should you or I feel? Part of that might depends on the stakes and what they mean to you.  For example, what does Iran want to do with its bomb? While the image of Iran bombing Israel out of existence constantly used I have to say that is the least likely outcome. Now I don’t for a moment agree with those that say we should ignore the extreme antisemitism of Iran’s leaders or believe them when they say the program is only for peaceful purposes, but so far they have acted like any sane antagonist in that they really would like to take the least painful road to victory and hopefully come out on top personally, not sacrifice their lives to nuke Haifa willy nilly, much less New York or Riyadh. The supporters of the deal are right when they point out a nuclear Iran would be far less powerfull than nuclear USA or Israel.

Supporters of the deal often frame the choice presented is either accepting this deal or war. I think they are partly right here. Partly because when you telegraph how badly you don’t want to fight, it makes your ability to negotiate a better deal much weaker. Never the less I agree that the sanctions regime was unlikely to get Iran to stop on its own. And I agree with those that say a war with Iran would be destabilizing, very risky, and a humanitarian crisis with the prospects of repelling world opinion. Neither Israel or the Saudis have gone ahead with an attack because they doubt they have the capacity to successfully knock out Iran’s nuclear capabilities. With those facts staring you in face, I can understand that many military leaders and statesmen are hesitant to consider war with Iran.

What do they hope will happen?   I suspect that among sober minded analyst, the hope is that in the delay that the deal will impose on Iran that a policy of containment can be implemented to check Iran’s nuclear ambitions or perhaps changes in Iran will result in the regime dropping its pursuit off a nuclear bomb. That’s not impossible, and so far, lots of people have gotten their hands on nukes but none have been used in war since the US bombed Japan. In the mean while, lots of businesses and governments around the world stand to profit from commerce with Iran, not to mention Iran’s oil will further drive down the cost of oil here and abroad.

So why are the Israelis and Saudis so opposed? Given that they are closer to Iran and, like us have much more hostile relations than China or Russia, shouldn’t we be concerned about how little these two nations support the deal? Israel and Saudi Arabia are hardly ideological peas in a pod. What is in it for them? At Slate, Fred Kaplan has offered his view for why this is so. Essentially, it isn’t the fear of having a bomb dropped on them that motivates their opposition, but a desire to see Iran forever under sanctions so as to cripple their ambitions for regional power and the hope of using the US to fight their ideological enemies and ensure their regional supremacy at the expense of Iran, and consequently us as well.

Now, again, their is truth to this assessment. But the bomb is still a powerful component of this fear of Iran. Even if not used to nuke Israel in a surprise attack, the bomb serves a role, a more important role, in Iran’s pursuit of regional domination by ensuring that the cost of attacking Iran in response to aggressive actions on its part or proxies. The money freed by the deal will likely end up the pockets of players like Assad and Hezbollah. So what you say? Now for the far left, this is why the Iran deal is a good deal. The enemy is Israel and its occupation of Palestine and the ruler ship of the Saudi royal family. The US should partner with Iran against those conservative states they might argue. I am of the opinion though that Iran is a far greater threat to human happiness and justice than Israel and Saudi Arabia. neither has ambitions as large as Iran’s. Israel really isn’t interested in ruling any more of the Arab world than it has already, and would give away most of what it has taken if guaranteed peace. Iran see’s itself not only as the ruler of the Shiites of Iran, but throughout the Mideast. Further, like their Sunni cousins, the Shiites of Iran believe that their particular brand of Islam should be the dominate form and are willing to use force to get their way. It doesn’t make sense for the US to drop support for these problematic but never the less traditionally allied states for one who’s objectives are completely at odds with our own.

My biggest objection though to the deal is contained within the argument for supporting the deal. The supporters of the deal argue  sanctions have no chance of being maintained and Iran could build a bomb in spite of them. But if that is the case, then what is the merit of the deal? if no one is willing to maintain the sanctions even with Iran feverishly trying to build a bomb, what makes anyone think they will snap back when violations are detected? Given that Iran may block inspections for weeks or do their own inspections, how sure is anyone that violations will even be found in a timely manner? If Iran give the inspectors the finger and starts enriching uranium at top capacity, will it not come down again to whether or not we will bomb Iran? If we tell them now that a delay of a few years of war is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, does it send the message we will fight a richer more prepared Iran over some violation of the deal which will be debated by the Russians and Chinese? their really is no deal at all but an extension of the status quo and a postponement of either war or acceptance of Iran as an imperialistic terror state with an atomic defense.

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