The Iran Deal and the New York Times’ Argument

Nicholas Kristof had some thoughts in the Paper of Obama’s Water. And so do I. Kristof presented his thoughts as arguments against the “deal” and his responses, so that’s the format I’ll use here, modified by my bolding the beginning phrase of each argument and response to set them off from my response.

Obama didn’t deliver what he promised. For example, we wanted “anywhere, anytime” inspections, but we caved and got a complex system that allows Iran to delay inspections. And in the later years of the agreement, Iran won a significant easing of controls.

The US didn’t get all it wanted (and neither did Iran) in an imperfect compromise. True, we didn’t achieve anywhere, anytime inspections, yet the required inspections program is still among the most intrusive ever. Remember too that this deal isn’t just about centrifuges but also about the possibility that Iran will come out of the cold and emerge from its failed 36-year experiment with extremism. That’s why Iran’s hard-liners are so opposed to the deal; they have been sustained by the narrative of the Great Satan as the endless enemy, and conciliation endangers them.

The failure to get anytime, anywhere inspections fatally flaws the agreement, regardless of anything else that might have come of it. The required inspection program may well be “among the most intrusive ever;” that still leaves it well short of intrusive enough to be useful. With that failure, Iran will be able to continue its merry way to nuclear weapons, hiding anything we might hear about for weeks, if not months, while they clean up before allowing an inspection. If they allow an inspection: their military facilities (there’s nothing civilian about nuclear weapons, remember) remain fully off limits.

“Failed 36-year experiment with extremism.” In whose eyes? Certainly not in the eyes of the men governing Iran, and they have the only opinion that matters regarding their “experiment.” The premise that these men are in any way endangered by this deal’s “conciliation” is naïve. And, for those 36 years—every single one of them—those men and their predecessors have been bent on the destruction of the Little Satan and the Great Satan. It would behoove us to take those men more seriously than this administration has done.

You doves think that a nuclear deal will empower reformers in Iran and turn it once more into the pro-American and pro-Israeli power it was under the shah. But sanctions relief may just give this regime a new lease on life.

Iran’s people are perhaps the most pro-American and secular of those of any country I’ve been to in the Middle East. (On my last trip to Iran, I took two of my kids along, and Iranians bought them meals and ice cream, and served them illegal mojitos.) The public weariness with the regime’s corruption, oppression and economic failings is manifest. I would guess that after the supreme leader dies, Iran will begin a process of change like that in China after Mao died.

Iran’s people are irrelevant to this; they’re not in charge. Neither is Iran the People’s Republic of China: these are two wholly differing cultures; how one might solve a problem gives exactly zero insight into how the other might approach the same problem—if the two different cultures even would have the same problem at any usefully comparative level. When the Supreme Leader dies, Iran will go through the same succession process it went through when the current Supreme Leader’s predecessor died.

In any event, guessing about a future change in Iranian leadership’s attitude toward and goals regarding the Little and Great Satans is hopelessly dangerous for those two peoples.

That’s speculative. The real impact of the deal is that it will unlock tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets and new oil revenues, giving Iranian hard-liners more resources to invest in nuclear skulduggery and in extremist groups.

True, but that will happen anyway. Remember that this agreement includes Europe, Russia, and China as parties. Even if Congress rejects the agreement, sanctions will erode and Iran will get an infusion of cash.

Much of that may well happen anyway. But that’s no excuse for us being a party to it. Too, American unilateral sanctions still would be extremely restrictive, if less so than were the rest of the P5+1 on board.

This agreement is a betrayal of Israel. Once Iran gets its hands on WMDs, it will commit genocide.

Iran is widely believed to have developed biological and chemical weapons back in the 1980s, and it hasn’t used those weapons of mass destruction against Israel. And what American officials find awkward to point out is that Israel is already a significant nuclear power with a huge military edge, which is why it has deterred Iran so far.

Would this be the same wide belief that Saddam had WMDs, that in the end proved erroneous, and whose erroneousness you decried so loudly? Iran has been deterred so far because it hasn’t an effective delivery means, and as was demonstrated as long ago as WWI, without that, gas and bugs are useless weapons, except as isolated terror weapons—which isolation Israel has shown itself fully capable of defeating. The Iranian leadership also is on record as believing it could survive a nuclear war with Israel, while Israel could not. There’s not much room for deterrence there.

Obama pretends that the alternative to this deal is war. No, the alternative is increased economic pressure until Iran yelps for surrender. As Marco Rubio puts it, “Give Iran a very clear choice: You can have an economy or you can have a weapons program.”

So we apply the same economic pressure that caused the collapse of the Castro regime in Cuba in 1964? The same isolation that overthrew the North Korean regime in 1993? The same sanctions that led Saddam Hussein to give up power peacefully in Iraq in 2000? Oh, wait.…

That’s just one end of a spectrum of alternatives, a spectrum which includes unilateral sanctions, getting the EU3 of the P5+1 to support them. The parallel with northern Korea is especially risible, since we’ve made the same concessions toward them that we have just given to Iran. And northern Korea has nuclear weapons today. On the other hand, one alternative is to simply give up on the effort and let Iran have what it wants. Oh, wait….

Look, even you admit that this is a flawed deal. So why risk it? As Rick Perry says, “No deal is better and safer than a bad deal.”

If the US rejects this landmark deal, then we get the worst of both worlds: an erosion of sanctions and also an immediate revival of the Iran nuclear program.

Rejection wouldn’t be a loss at all: Perry is right, no deal is better than a bad deal. “Immediate revival of the Iran nuclear program?” It’s never been in abeyance. Now it’ll continue apace, in secret, with a veneer of legitimacy layered onto the regime pursuing it.

The problem with this administration (and the NYT argument) is its lack of understanding of the situation: it’s much like the mouse remonstrating with the hawk. The mouse thinks the hawk’s ways are wrong. The hawk thinks the mouse is lunch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *