Iran and the United States finally reached an agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program, but it seems this time the devil is in the details.
Over the weekend, the U.S., its allies, and Iran managed to work out a deal in which some of the international sanctions Iran has been experiencing will be lifted in exchange for certain reductions in Iran’s nuclear development. This is a six-month agreement that the Obama administration hopes will lead to a more permanent solution after further talks take place. I know what you’re thinking: “What an amazing diplomatic breakthrough!” Well…
“Last night is not a historic agreement – it’s a historic mistake. It’s not made the world a safer place…This agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place,” argued Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Ok, so we’ll put him down as “still on the fence”: not surprising, since Netanyahu has never gotten along that well with President Obama. He probably is just upset that Barack (the U.S. president, not Netanyahu’s Israeli political rival, Ehud Barak) is going to get all the glory for this one, right?
According to the Associated Press, “Israel and Western-allied Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia have formed an unlikely alliance in their opposition to Sunday’s deal, joined together by shared concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran and the Tehran’s growing regional influence.” It notes that in the hours following the agreement, “Saudi Arabia remained conspicuously quiet.” Hmm…Wait, the Saudis have been criticizing us a lot lately. This is probably just part of their ongoing crankiness: nothing to worry about, I’m sure.
Well, it is not only foreigners who are somewhat concerned about this deal. Agence France Presse has an article up explaining that, “House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, said ‘the interim deal has been and will continue to be met with healthy skepticism and hard questions, not just of the Iranians, but of ourselves and our allies involved in the negotiations.’” Just why is that, Mr. Speaker? “Otherwise, we will look back on the interim deal as a remarkably clever Iranian move to dismantle the international sanctions regime while maintaining its infrastructure and material to pursue a break-out nuclear capability.” Ok, you might have a good point there. Shall we put you down for “muted enthusiasm”?
Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said in a CNN interview, “We just feel more pressure needs to be brought on Iran rather than to make this deal and take the pressure off of Iran, which will allow them to go forward with their economic revitalization in the country,” while the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, called the deal “a permission slip to continue enrichment”. Despite this criticism, both men are Republicans. Surely we would expect them to oppose anything that the Obama administration supports. Yes, it is all a case of partisan hair splitting…or is it?
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, a key Democrat in Congress, complained that the deal was disproportional, with Iran getting the better end of the deal. “It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders, that brought Iran to the table, and any reduction relieves the psychological pressure of future sanctions and gives them hope that they will be able to gain nuclear weapon capability while further sanctions are reduced. A fairer agreement would have coupled a reduction in sanctions with a proportionate reduction in Iranian nuclear capability,” he said. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, also a Democrat, had his own criticisms of the six-month agreement.
At this point, I think it is safe to say that an awful lot of people are upset about this deal, and not simply for partisan reasons. Of course, any deal with a semi-theocratic, thoroughly authoritarian, and 24/7 anti-American regime is bound to raise an eyebrow or two. Some will point to Iran’s failure to comply with international nuclear standards in the past. Others will use historical examples – Munich Pact! North Korea! Obamacare! – to suggest that what a politician initially agrees to do is not always what ends up taking place. A few commentators may even repeat that favorite line of reasoning, “Muslims are allowed to lie to unbelievers, so how can we trust anything they say?”
Yes, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about any deal with the Iranian regime. Still, that does not mean that it isn’t worth a try. The deal is only for six months and will relax a minimal amount of economic sanctions. Given that the United States has made it fairly clear that it has no intention of taking military action in Iran, I suppose another six months couldn’t hurt much: it’s not like we were preparing to invade next week.
Sometimes it pays to look on the bright side. Just consider the reaction of the group that calls itself “Iran’s main opposition group”: “The National Council of Resistance of Iran, an outspoken opposition group based in the suburbs of Paris, issued a statement welcoming the deal and calling it a “forced retreat” by the country’s clerical government.” A forced retreat? Wait…wasn’t the United States retreating with its tail between its legs? Surely we can’t both retreat at the same time?!
Think about it: the Iranian regime is the sworn enemy of the Israel-loving, imperialist American regime. What is that term they have for us? Come on, I know you remember it! “The Great Satan”! As insults go, it doesn’t get much worse than “The Great Satan”. That was how Ayatollah Khomeini referred to us back in 1979, and the name has stuck ever since. Times have changed since the ‘70s, and it may not get dragged out as much as it used to, but the sentiment still lingers within the Iranian political community.
So now comes the inevitable wordplay: Iran has made a deal with the devil. Sure, the limited extent of this agreement means that it is something short of a grand Faustian bargain. But as they say, the devil is in the details, and this time they mean it literally. So don’t feel depressed America! You may have made a deal with a closed-minded, dictatorial, annoyingly self-righteous regime, but it could be a lot worse. At least you didn’t make a deal with the devil!
Thank God for small victories…