Already, forces are arrayed against the nuclear agreement reached in Vienna, even though the ink has barely dried on the 100-page document. The lead antagonist is of course Israel, led by its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Along with Israel, the second most significant group in opposition consists of members of the United States Congress.
It is important to note that pretty much the entire rest of the world is behind this agreement. Among the parties to the negotiations were England, France, Germany, Russia, China, the U.S., and the entire European Union. That is a pretty impressive coalition of world leaders.
Yet critics – especially those in the U.S. – attack the agreement as if it were dreamed up by President Barack Obama and Iran. They miss the fact that rejecting this agreement would not simply be rejecting this president, but would also be putting us at odds with the majority of the wider world. This means we would also give up the leverage of having the world community support any other steps we might take against Iran.
Also, critics are understandably wary of trusting the Iranian government. It would be hard to find anyone who would disagree on that point. This is why so many checks on the Iranians are part of the agreement, including a snapback provision putting all sanctions back in place if Iran fails to live up to the deal.
What is more difficult to understand is why the critics also fail to trust the technical experts on energy and atomic weaponry. Though they have no expertise in this area, they simply choose to ignore what the experts have to say. The technical aspects of this agreement are pretty remarkable and suggest a serious and determined effort to address the issue carefully. Both sides have shown a determination to get this agreement right for the benefit of all parties to the deal. To simply dismiss out of hand all the work that has been done is at best irresponsible.
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Unfortunately so much of the current discussion is political and not actually based on the merits of the deal. Among Democrats in Congress running for reelection, there is the feeling of a need to oppose the deal as a show of support for Israel. Republicans believe they can capture a majority of the Jewish vote by condemning the current agreement.
There are also the “neocons” that have never seen a war they didn’t like. It is this cadre of folks who converted the 9/11 tragedy into a reason to attack Iraq, and were convinced that we would be seen as heroes as we swept through Baghdad. Even the Israeli military continues to warn of the difficulty of defeating Iran militarily.
Look what has gone into this agreement. Iranian officials sat down across a table with Americans and other world powers. They spoke to each other in civil terms and hammered out an agreement over a period of two years of negotiations. They worked through thorny issues and continued around the clock to complete a deal. The Iranians have already lived up to interim agreements that were reached.
Is this deal perfect? No. Are there risks involved with this deal? Absolutely. There are also risks involved in leaving things as they are. Peace is worth the risk. Add to that the safeguards that will go into effect if the agreement fails, and you have a risk well worth taking.
It is easy to criticize this deal. There are many things that could have been in it that are not. If you believe that Iran should have no nuclear program at all, peaceful or otherwise, you will be disappointed. The question you have to ask yourself is whether there is a meaningful alternative.
This agreement stands as a classic example of successful negotiations. Both sides wanted and needed this agreement. That is precisely what drives successful negotiations. Obviously, the U.S. wanted to contain Iran’s nuclear program. But what did Iran want? It wanted two things. It needed the sanctions lifted because they are strangling the Iranian economy. It also wants recognition and readmission into the community of nations. While there are definitely hardliners who don’t want a rapprochement with the West, the Iranian people are demanding it, and with the success of these negotiations the moderate leadership will likely stay in power. This is why Iran will abide by this agreement.
Although it seems to me that the alternative to this agreement is either war or the acceptance of a nuclear Iran, the critics say this is not so. Therefore, what can we expect if this agreement were to be rejected? If the United Nations and all other participating countries overwhelmingly support this agreement, as is quite likely, it will be the U.S. that will be seen as the outsider. We will be seen as an obstacle to peace. Europe, China, and Russia will end their sanctions regime and will do what they can to welcome Iran into the community of nations. We will be the lone holdout.
Additionally, Iran will feel no compulsion to abide by the agreement rejected by the U.S. There will be no access to its nuclear sites and we will have no way of knowing what is going on regarding their nuclear program. If and when we finally discover that they have indeed amped up their nuclear program, it is difficult to see what the alternative to military action would be.
In short, it is difficult to see how rejecting this deal has any positive merits.