It’s time for us to act like adults.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have won an agreement, which has capped nuclear enrichment potentials in Iran and removed the current prospect of war, greater sanctions and hardships for Iranians, or both. The agreement has been praised by most arms control experts and welcomed by almost all (with the exception of Israel) political entities in the world that have spoken on it.
The teams fielded by the P5+1 and the Iranians have crafted a contract which any fair-minded person must concede blocks all visible and probable paths to a nuclear weapon for Iran for eight years and erects substantial, on the ground, deeply entrenched impediments to any Iranian attempt to create nuclear weapons well beyond that point (for example, detailed controls on uranium enrichment and stockpiles for 15 years and IAEA monitoring of all uranium ore concentrate activity for 25 years – see paragraphs 5,7.10.11,12 and 15 of the Joint Comprehensive plan of Action). Also Iran would be subject to the Additional Protocol allowing IAEA investigation of suspicious sites (paragraph 13). Check out this infographic for more detail.
Iranian citizens can now look toward greater engagement with the west in a host of ways and to significantly greater prosperity. Their eagerness to embrace this sort of future is evident. Other countries around the world, including but not limited to the United States, can enjoy greater access to the citizens, markets, resources, and creative capacities of a large nation in an important area.
Reflexive condemnation of this arrangement, notably by members of the Republican Party, is shortsighted. It is about as wise as was the Smoot-Hawley tariff act, passed just before the Great Depression, which triggered a worldwide massive increase in tariffs, depressed international trade, and contributed to the worldwide Great Depression.
Politicians who have roundly condemned the agreement with Iran before reading it carefully and seeing the plain sense of its content have been playing the public fool, and this has been noticed.
This is not the time for an entire political party to oppose an important foreign policy matter based on an short-sighted, belligerent, negotiate-only-with-your-fist approach to the Middle East.
Some who have the integrity and grace to admit that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action blocks Iran's path to nuclear weapons are concerned that Iran would use greater prosperity to support agendas we find troublesome, such as Hezbollah. As President Obama noted, a nuclear-armed Iran is a bigger potential problem than a better-funded Hezbollah.
But the greatest threat to political stability in the area, ISIL, springs not from Iran but directly from the viciously misogynistic doctrines of Wahhabic Islam, based in Saudi Arabia.
Some, such as Saudi Arabia, appear to be concerned that a strengthened Iran would be a tougher competitor for regional primacy. If Saudi Arabia wishes to be an economically stronger entity than Iran, it would do better to focus on improving its education and governance systems. The Saudi rulers tend to hoard oil-based wealth and power and appease their citizens with handouts rather than improve their skills, knowledge and economic productivity. Unlike Iran, they do not even have meaningful elections. Let those who fear greater competition attend to improving their own product.
Israel understandably would like to maintain a nuclear advantage over its neighbors. But the remainder of the world does not seem to think that only one country in the Middle East should be able to have commercial nuclear power. Israel has been able to prevent a state which it sees as an adversary from getting military nuclear power for at least a decade, and probably much longer. That is a significant accomplishment. It cannot expect to dominate the energy options of all its neighbors for its sole interest.
Some fear that allowing Iran to have any significant nuclear energy capability is a bad gamble. This presumes that Iran will prejudice the economic ties and prospects it will gain over a decade and attempt to evade continuing IAEA monitoring. Any future movement toward nuclear weaponization by Iran will, if recent events are any guide, be detected and met with massive and determined resistance.
Some seem to lament that Obama's recognizing that he must cooperate with other major nations on Iran's nuclear programs shows “weakness” or betrays a loss of American power. Welcome to the 21st century. Europe embodies about as much economic mass as the United States, India and China have populations three times ours, and Eurasia and the world's oceans are very large and outside our boundaries. We don't hold all the marbles.
The position of any responsible politician—or any responsible person—on this agreement should not be about partisan advantage, well funded political backers, ethnic affinities, or some fantasy of unilateral military-based hegemony. This is about a practical arrangement to contain nuclear militarization, de-escalate economic warfare, and improve the economic and cultural opportunities for Iranians and all those who would like to have peaceful economic and cultural relations with them.
It is time for citizens to keep a clear head, and to let their elected representatives know they expect some intellectual integrity and political statesmanship from public officials.