Beyond the Partisan Bickering: What You Need to Know about the Iran Nuclear Deal

For the second time, Democrats blocked an attempt by the GOP to reject the Iran nuclear deal as Minority Leader Harry Reid declared it’s time to move on to other things.

With Americans still debating the merits of the deal, North Korea announced that it is ready to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. at any time. Can Americans find any comfort in President Obama’s huge win over the Iran agreement?

The Iran deal has largely broken down along partisan lines as do so many issues today. It is easy to find reasons to support it, as listed by the Atlantic or CNN. More plentiful are criticisms as you find listed by Yahoo! and the Washington Post.

It is worth noting that the WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin compiled her list from concerns from the centrist Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the center-left Brookings Institution’s Lawfare project.

Supporters such as The Atlantic’s Graham Allison rest a large part of approval on points such as “no one has identified a better feasible alternative,” and “at this point, a ‘better deal’ is an illusion.”

Okay, not exactly a ringing endorsement, but Iran was only a couple of months from having enough uranium to make a bomb and while the agreement places some admittedly limited constraints on Iran, it does not limit the “weapons, military exercises, and covert activities” of the “U.S., Israel, and their allies.”

As always, there is rhetoric and reality. Let’s keep it simple:

1.) The Iran deal is very specific about one important provision.

The deal states in no uncertain terms: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons.” Everything else that Iran may or may not do is of little concern except as it relates to this one very general, very all-encompassing commitment. While the devil may be in the details, this pretty much says it all.

The rest of the terms are somewhat complex, but former Defense Secretary Harold Brown, who concludes in the Chicago Tribune that accepting the Iran deal is a no-brainer, also admits, “[M]y experience as defense secretary during the Iran hostage crisis more than three decades ago tells me that Iran will probably try to circumvent the nuclear deal.” This leads us to:

2.)  What happens if Iran cheats?

Steve Chapman of the same Chicago Tribune editorial board argues that any cheating on the various specific restrictions will be easily detected. Amanda Taub of Vox delineates the ease of reimposing sanctions if even just the United States thinks Iran is cheating on the deal. In the ultimate worst-case scenario of the need for military action, Taub also argues that we will be better off than before because any eventual military action will be enhanced by the comprehensive monitoring set out as part of the agreement, which will yield a great deal of detailed information we don’t currently have.

President Obama has stated unequivocally, “if Iran cheats, we can catch them and we will,” without getting into the specifics of what the penalties might be. Unfortunately, there are reasons to question his resolve, most notably as he drew a red line on Syria and later walked it back, trying to claim he was referring to the international community.

 

On Sunday night, the Times of Israel reported that Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, wished Jews “Shana Tovah,” which means “Happy New Year” in Hebrew and sent general good wishes to the Jewish people. At a time when there is a great deal of controversy over the Obama administration’s nuclear deal, is this a good sign?

Iran is as divided as any country in the world, with a majority of young people wanting peace and prosperity, but the country has a substantial minority of vocal religious extremists. While the nuclear deal was negotiated by the foreign minister and approved by the president, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is still threatening the U.S. and Israel.

Khamenei is the Supreme Leader, the head of state and highest ranking political and religious authority in Iran — more powerful than the president and in charge of the military with the authority to declare war. There is no reason for Americans to trust him, but at least part of his reluctance may be what he observes from us.

Last week, he stated that his country “would negotiate and reach agreement in different levels of state, religion or ethnic groups with all countries but the Great Satan,” apparently in part because he observes “America, in a way, has divided its duties with Iran and behaves in a twofold way; some smile while others are busy producing legislation against Iran.”

Now may be an opportunity to start overcoming a legacy of failed 'security now, reform later' policies resulting in our support of oppressive dictators.
Craig Berlin, IVN Independent Author
How much he may be reacting to rhetoric on our end shouldn’t be understated, especially when even Hillary Clinton is on the campaign trail referring to Iran as a “ruthless, brutal regime.”

Some of us have always felt that we would be better off if we followed the old adage of keeping our friends close and our enemies closer. As it happens, Iran has a plurality of young people born after the 1979 revolution who appear to be no different than ours, yet our news is often dominated with representations only of the zealots.

Admittedly, Iran is a concern not only because of public statements made by its leaders, but as a designated State Sponsor of Terrorism since 1984.

Many object to the release of frozen assets that will boost Iran’s economy, although claims that it will be some sort of immediate windfall are largely overstated.

There are also objections to side deals between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that were not fully disclosed during the negotiating process.

Most troubling, perhaps, is the deal being signed while four Americans are still being held prisoner. It’s uncomfortable, if not unacceptable, that this seems to have been negotiated with no mention of this issue and somewhat surprising that there hasn’t been wider bipartisan scrutiny of its absence.

Still, now may be an opportunity to start overcoming a legacy of failed “security now, reform later” policies resulting in our support of oppressive dictators such as the Shah and Saddam Hussein — something that hardly endeared us to the people.

In addition, our invasion and long-term mismanagement of situations in the Middle East have also failed to win us any friends or help us broker long-term peace in the region, where our relationship with Israel is already a sore spot.

Taking the agreement at face value without getting too far into the weeds, the language prohibiting nuclear weapons in Iran is pretty cut and dried and what we can do if we think Iran is cheating is open-ended. So as is often the case, the comments from both sides of the aisle are largely partisan bickering.

The deal doesn’t necessarily prevent any war as the Democrats would have us believe, nor does it pave the way for Iran to get weapons as the Republicans have claimed.

With Iran getting closer to nuclear capability and the likelihood of other countries ending sanctions, having something as specific as this leaves the U.S. with options should we have the wherewithal to pursue them.