All the usual suspects are challenging the Iran Deal, not to mention the over the top sensationalist (and extremely insensitive) comments by Buy-My-Book former Governor Huckabee. It’s advised that before one buys into the hyperbolic renditions – and rending of garments – by the opposition which got us into a Fine Mess in Iraq, take a look at the fact sheet from which the graphics were taken. For those who would like the coloring book version, here are the illustrations from that fact sheet:
Feel better now? If not, go back to the original fact sheet. Still not completely satisfied? The, see National Interest’s publication on five reasons to negotiate with Iran from back in November 2014. For an economic perspective see IBT’s analysis on how the sanctions and Iran’s economy relate. Or, try this opinion piece from Haaretz on three benefits from ending the cold war between the U.S. and Iran.
The ultimate argument from those who oppose any deal at all, and any deal will intrinsically never satisfy some of the critics, is that “Iran can’t be trusted.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but for some critics every Iranian would have to have an IAEA inspector surgically attached 24/7/365 in order for the deal to be acceptable, and even then there would be questions. Look at the four light blue segments in the last graphic “Access and Verification.” What did Reagan say? “Trust but verify.” And he was dealing with the old Soviet Union which already had nuclear weapons.
This might be the time to remember December 8, 1987, the date President Reagan signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Soviet Union? How the feathers did ruffle! George Will pronounced it “The Day the Cold War Was Lost,” asserting that we were the losers. [RCP] [Shields] Conservative columnist William Safire declared Reagan a fool and that “the Russians “now understand the way to handle Mr. Reagan: Never murder a man who is committing suicide.” [Shields] And then there was this commentary:
“Howard Phillips, the chairman of the Conservative Caucus, who, like former Governor Reagan, had been in 1978 a leading opponent of the Panama Canal treaty, accused Mr. Reagan of “fronting as a useful idiot for Soviet propaganda.” [Shields]
The take-away from this trip down memory lane is that (1) you don’t have to negotiate peace treaties with your friends, and (2) there will always be War Hawks among us who will denigrate any attempt at peaceful negotiations no matter who is conducting them. For hard-liners no negotiations will ever be acceptable and no treaty will ever be successful.
There are some other considerations appropriate to this treaty.
#1. This is not a unilateral effort. We do tend to see international negotiations from a unilateral perspective, and this is magnified in the news coverage. However, the treaty is the result of negotiations between and among China, Russia, Germany, France, the UK, and the US. Defeat of this treaty discredits the efforts of the US to take into consideration the needs and policies of its allies, and that’s a dangerous element in an unstable world.
#2. Unilateral economic sanctions don’t work. The “crank up the sanctions” argument is bombast. The most conspicuous failure being the US sanctions on Cuba, imposed October 19, 1960 and extended on February 7, 1962. 55 years later the Castro regime is still nestled nicely in power. One professor looked at the 550 pages of current sanctions on the Treasury Department’s list and observed:
“Daniel Drezner, a professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, says sanctions “tend to work when the demand is incredibly well-defined,” like resolving a trade dispute, “and there is some sort of decent relationship with the target state.” Those governments can compromise without worrying that the country imposing sanctions will keep demanding more. Drezner says that broad sanctions targeted at adversaries have far lower odds of success.” [Bloomberg]
This echoes the conclusion drawn years earlier (1998) by a presenter at a
“The first conclusion is that sanctions have an extremely poor record of achieving their own foreign policy goals. Since 1973, the last quarter-century, only 17 percent of U.S. sanctions have worked. That’s whether they’re unilateral or multilateral. But less than one in five of the cases we have applied have, according to our scoring system, had positive effect. They almost never work when they are applied on a partial rather than comprehensive basis, which is the norm. They almost never work when they are applied unilaterally rather than multilaterally, which in these days is almost always the norm. There is no case—repeat, no case—where unilateral sanctions have ever worked to induce a sizable country to make a major change in policy, no case in history that we have been able to discover.” [Bergsten]
The reason unilateral sanctions don’t work? If the US is unwilling to trade with the target, others are perfectly willing to do so – like the Chinese, the Russians, the French, the British, and the Germans. In other words, without the cooperation of our allies the power of the sanctions evaporates.
#3. The sound bite “No deal is better than a bad deal” is pure hogwash. First, this is NOT a bad deal. It keeps the sanctions option open, it provides for the Reagan Formula “trust but verify,” it prevents Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program. Secondly, without the deal the sanctions would be unilateral (see above), while access and verification would be nearly impossible thus allowing Iran to continue its nuclear weapons program without international interference. Finally, there are two general options in diplomatic relations: Diplomacy and War. War being, as the saying goes, the failure of diplomacy.
It seems incongruous for those who’ve been telling us for years now that Iran is One Year Away from a nuclear weapon that a treaty which prevents nuclear weapons programs in Iran from continuing for the next 10 years is somehow a “failure,” or a bad treaty.
There will be no convincing those who want a war with Iran that the current treaty is a diplomatic success. It will be up to those who aren’t predisposed to dismiss diplomacy and who seek negotiated settlements of profound problems to support the acceptance of this treaty.