Monday, March 23, 2015

Foggofwar Says: Let's Make a Deal With Iran

The nuclear deal with Iran is entering the final stages of getting to "in principle" agreement--here's the general outline.

It's not clear whether the US and Iran will make a deal, but the political will is definitely there, and that's the most important part.

Though I have some reservations, I endorse the deal--I think we should make it, if what shows up in June sticks to the general outline that we know now.

In short, it cuts Iran down to a scope of production that would make "break-out" time--the time it takes to build a nuke if they got serious--one year, which is a pretty long time. Even assuming they can ramp up much faster, it gives the US time to do something about it. The door would need to be open to inspectors, which gives at least enough monitoring to know if Iran is sneaking around.

I'm going to tackle what I think are the objections, though let me know if I miss any:

  • "It's only 10 years." A lot changes in 10 years. The idea of permanently keeping a country from having a domestic, peaceful nuclear power program is something that's just not going to fly. The West is hoping that a good deal and thawed relations will bring out the moderates in Iran and make it a place we're not so worried about anymore.
  • "If we drop all sanctions, we lose bargaining power." If Iran holds up its end of the deal, the US doesn't really need further bargaining power on the nuclear issue. It and the rest of the West can always slap the sanctions right back on--that's easier and more immediate than trying to build a weapon or spooling up weapons facilities. Just as the agreement on Iran's capacity limitations expires after 10 years, so does the agreement to have no economic sanctions about the nuclear issue.
  • "What if they break their end of the deal?" If they really break it, the US can still use military force. The biggest concern I had about the deal was that I was worried the US wasn't willing to threaten military force to prevent Iran from getting a nuke. I started considering whether the President was trying to be clever about messaging, as he is doing in relation to ISIS. A Nobel Peace Prize winner does not lower himself by threatening war if he does not get what he wants. Luckily, his hand-picked Director of the CIA can do just that, and has. The President gets to keep focusing on the positive and being the carrot to the CIA's stick. But there is a subtlety even here: when Obama says that the window for a peaceful resolution is temporary, he means it: the Republican letter to Iran, however hamfisted, makes it clear that the winds may change in the US and that the next President might not be quite so accommodating--and might be more willing to throw missiles at the problem.

The best part about a reasonable deal is that it gives legitimacy and political will for military action if it's necessary. Military force is a last resort after diplomacy fails, and if Iran goes ahead and builds nukes under a treaty/agreement not to do so, it becomes easier for everyone to talk about employing military force.

All in all, I think the deal is a good one. And long-term, it could work to bring Iran further into the Western fold.

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