Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Iranian Deal: Give Diplomacy a Chance


Lots of opinions on the deal struck in Geneva with Iran, and predictably those on the right oppose the deal and those in the center and left support it.  So what’s one more opinion.

The crippling sanctions have nearly shattered the Iranian economy, the pain on Iranian Main St. is real, but has it really stopped the nuclear program?  The numbers say no.  In 2003 Iran had 164 operational; today it has 19,000 centrifuges.  Did the sanctions bring Iran to the negotiating table?  Probably.  President Rouhani’s pledge to improve the economy in the wake of the Ahmadinejad failure could only happen with a relaxation of the sanctions.  But no one should once think this means Iranian citizens have given up on their nuclear aspirations.  The question is in what form these aspirations develop.

I had to laugh at Conservative Pundit Bill Kristol today on This Week when he said our allies oppose this deal.  Keep in mind, this is the same man who said “If we free the people of Iraq, we will be respected in the Arab world... and I think we will be respected around the world.” as he helped bang the drum for war in Iraq and lost whatever little credibility he had when he kept pumping up the failed expedition.  But what allies is Kristol referring to?  Why the rich Sunni Arab nations and Israel of course.  So why would they oppose a deal that could end Iranian nuclear weapon aspirations (assuming they had them to start with)? In the case of Netanyahu and his hawkish government, if the Iranian situation is defused, more attention will be placed on the Palestinian situation and the calls for the two state solution will increase.  Further, Netanyahu is using the traditional Republican Party perpetual campaign rhetoric that his Likud party, like the Republicans, are the true defenders of Israel and understand national security better than its rivals in the Labor Party. His tenuous grip on power is further jeopardized if his state of fear and constant siege is proven false.  As for the Saudis and their coalition of moderate Arab Sunni nations, their proxy war against the Shia Iranians has been ratcheting up since the failed U.S. escapades in Iraq.  When Shias started an uprising in Bahrain, it was the Saudis that sent forces in to squelch the uprising.  And currently this proxy war is being carried out in greater scope in Syria as the Syrian-Hezbollah-Iran axis battles the Saudi funded al-Qaeda militants.  It seems oil isn’t the only thing these sectarian rivals like to export.  And speaking of oil, the Saudis are finding our firsthand that the U.S. is slowly but surely weaning itself off gulf oil.

But back on the question of allies, apparently England, France, and Germany agree with the deal as they were part of the negotiations.  But let’s not stop there:

From Turkey: "We call on the sides to keep up their constructive approaches to carry the process further," the statement said. "We hope both sides will take the necessary steps required by the agreement, so the problem can be solved in a diplomatic way that would satisfy everyone."

From the UK: "This is an important moment, an encouraging moment, in our relations with Iran and in our efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation in the world.”

From France: President Francois Hollande also saw the accord as a step in the right direction “towards stopping Iran's military nuclear program and therefore normalizing our ties.”

Further, the fact that both China and Russia are onboard with this deal marks the 1st time in memory that the security council actually agreed to anything this important. 

But at the end of the day, the critical questions that need to be asked include:

·        What do we lose if inspectors discover Iran has violated the terms?  The west hits Iran with even heavier sanctions than before and it is unlikely that even a few months would matter in the long term when it comes to the development.

·        What do we lose if we continue on the current path?  The current path was untenable for all parties and would lead to further regional destabilization.

·        Does an autonomous nation have the right to develop a peaceful nuclear program?  Absolutely yes.

·        Are the Iranians worse than the Saudis when it comes to human rights violations?  That’s like distinguishing between Jack the Ripper and Hannibal Lecter. 

·        Can we trust the Iranians and can the Iranians trust us?  At this stage no.  Trust is fickle and difficult to realize, this is why this agreement is less about enrichment and sanctions and more about feeling one another out.

At the end of the day, this agreement opens up many possibilities to stabilize the region while not adding significant risk.  In fact this could lead to further agreements and solutions regarding Syria and who knows, it may lead to some positive developments with North Korea.  What I can tell you is a nuclear armed Saudi Arabia with a bomb within the reach of radical Wahhabis is far more dangerous than a nuclear armed Iran.

I don’t see how giving diplomacy a chance is a bad thing, after all it’s unlikely there will be a mushroom cloud as the smoking gun in the near future.

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