No Deal Good Enough?

I listened to President Obama’s speech as he explained the framework of the deal which the major powers of the world including the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China reached with Iran aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Provided that the details can be worked out and Iran actually abides by the terms, the agreement cuts off all avenues by which Iran could develop a nuclear weapon. The liberal inspections provisions also make it virtually impossible for Iran to covertly continue with their quest to develop nuclear weapons without the world knowing about it.

No one doubts that Iran has been a bad actor on the world stage and no one trusts that nation to live up to its promises. However, such considerations did not keep American Presidents including Ronald Reagan from making nuclear weapons reduction agreements with our sworn nuclear enemy during the height of the cold war. And the USSR was far more dangerous than Iran will ever hope to be. Inspections and verifications were also at the heart of those agreements.

In addition, without an agreement, given the current state of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, the best expert estimates are that if Iran decided to go all out to manufacture enough fissionable material for one nuclear weapon, they could achieve that goal within two to three months. Once the agreement provisions aimed at reducing Iran’s nuclear manufacturing capabilities are implemented, that period will be extended to over a year. That means that if Iran were to decide at some point in the future to break the agreement, the world would have much longer period of time to take corrective action to prevent Iran from achieving that goal. If you don’t trust an adversary, doesn’t make sense to make agreements which make it more difficult for it to obtain its objectives quickly.

The agreement did not strip Iran of all of its nuclear abilities as some of its harshest critics for the deal would have liked. However, the agreement left Iran with only enough nuclear infrastructure to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear power which is the recognized right of every nation.

Proponents and opponents of negotiating with Iran appear to have been united in the standard that the agreement should meet, “Better no deal than a bad deal” was the mantra. Well my initial and current assessment of the agreement with Iran is this is a good deal, not a bad one. However as expected, Benjamin Netanyahu and his Republican friends in this country blasted the agreement right out of the gate. As best I can determine their biggest objection is that the agreement did not strip the Iran of even its peaceful nuclear capabilities, essentially driving the country back into the nuclear stone ages. Admittedly that would have been perfect deal, so their mantra should have been, “No deal but a perfect deal”.

There is an another saying in politics and negotiations. Paraphrased it goes something like this, “Never let the quest for perfection get in the way of the good and acceptable agreement”. In this case it means that Iran would have never agreed to ditching every bit of its nuclear infrastructure including that which could only be used for peaceful pursuits. I sincerely doubt that any amount of sanction pressure could have forced them to do so. So by any objective measure, while this agreement isn’t perfect, it is totally acceptable and the best agreement which could have been achieved under the circumstances.

Now lkets look closely at motives of those who are still far from satisfied. I think that Bibi Netanyahu’s biggest problem is that Israel did not have a seat at the negotiating table. However there was a very good reasons why the US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China did not invite Netanyahu to the party. Everyone knew that he would have made a farce of the negotiations, making impossible demands which would have driven Iran to break off negotiations. He has shown himself unable and/or unwilling to negotiate in good faith throughout his entire career. I think it fair to say that Netanyahu would have criticized any agreement that might have been made with Iran so it is no surprise that he is critical of this one. If he wasn’t qualified to sit in on the negotiations, how could anyone pretend he qualified to judge the results.

The American Republicans have also adapted Netanyahu’s “It’s my way or the highway” approach, but they have another motive. Their dislike for President Obama is almost unprecedented. To hear them tell it, the President has never, ever done any thing right. They have criticized him at each and every opportunity and thrown every obstacle possible in his path regardless of what he tried to d. After heavily criticizing the entire negotiating process and going out of their way to politicize this international issue in both the US and Israel by inviting Netanyahu to address congress without consulting the President, there was no way they could do anything but criticize the agreement regardless what its final form. If they admitted at this point that the deal is a good one, they would be admitting the acted irresponsibility earlier, and they are definitely not going to do that.

Lastly, I think that it is important to point out that this isn’t simply an agreement between the United States and Iran. This is an agreement between Iran and the greatest nuclear powers on earth, each of which is capable of reducing Iran to ash pit without fear of retaliation. This is an agreement between the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and Iran. Those that say the President Obama was naive and unwise to enter into this agreement are also accusing the leaders of Great Britain, France and Germany (some of our closest allies) as well as China and Russia of being naïve and unwise. When Netanyahu and the Republican politicians obtain the world statue of those leaders of the countries involved in the negotiations, their criticisms of the results might be given greater credence.

Cajun   4/3/2015

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