Was the Iran Nuclear Agreement a Smart Move?
Let me begin with the obvious: the nuclear deal with Iran does not give the Islamic Republic the ability to obtain nuclear weapons. In fact, the deal does the exact opposite, and prevents it—for the time being—from obtaining those weapons. The deal is not perfect, obviously, but no deal is perfect.There are issues regarding accountability, there are issues with Iran’s other dealings across the Middle East, there are issues with Iran’s atrocious human rights record, and there are issues with Iran’s rhetoric towards Israel. These are very serious issues that merit discussion, however, they are only part of the context of this nuclear deal. All that being said, this is the best deal the United States can get, given the wide array of other engagements that impacts it.
The first and most important aspect of this Iran nuclear deal is an understanding of the parties involved. The parties involved are not just the United States and Iran; they are the P5+1, the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China) and Germany. The international sanctions regime that forced Iran to the table was a coordinated effort between all of these countries, and it was not going to hold. Russia and China had no interest in continuing the Iranian sanctions; France and Germany saw the economic loss inflicted upon the already hurting European Union economy and were set on letting the sanctions expire. All of this simply means that the mechanism which brought Iran to the table was set to vanish, and has vanished. It is nearly impossible to get Iran back on the table; the sanctions will not go back up. The United States cannot act unilaterally in this matter. A deal that seriously limits Iran’s ability to obtain nuclear weapons was the set goal when negotiations began, and it is the accomplishment of that goal which we ought to applaud.
It is also important to understand the domestic entanglements of both the United States and Iran. Both nations have factions strongly opposed to the deal. Conservative forces in Iran have long held that the United States is the “Great Satan.” Conservative forces in the United States have mentioned Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil.” Needless to say, both are opposed to the idea of a deal; they represent foreign policy hawks in both nations for whom negotiations and deals are considered dire weaknesses to national security. It is with these groups in mind that American and Iranian negotiators are calling the deal a deal, rather than a treaty. Both President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani know that those opposition forces will stop at nothing to prevent the deal from going forward. Thus an all-encompassing deal could not come to fruition so long as these groups stand opposed.
Given these limitations, the deal we have is the best we can get. Even though there are serious issues with Iran that desperately need to be resolved, this deal is a solution to one of them. It cements the idea of engaging adversarial powers and using diplomacy to create a peaceful and sustainable Middle East.