Iran’s nuclear deal with Europe and the US

I’m cautiously optimistic about this deal; it’s interim, after all, which means its effects can be reversed if Iran doesn’t live up to its terms. Interim also means the United States Senate doesn’t get a chance to whack at it. Ordinarily that wouldn’t worry me, even though nearly every member of that body on either side of the aisle thinks of him or herself as President-in-waiting and wants to express foreign policy chops. But we have some very extraordinary Senators nowadays, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

The fact that the Saudis and other Gulf states and the Israelis don’t like it (and in fact are very strident about it) doesn’t worry me either. I think Israel’s Netanyahu does think it’s a reduction in pressure on the Iranians, but so what? Again, it’s interim; what part of that word do you not understand, Bibi?

In the Saudi Arabian case and that of their Arab neighbors, it’s part of the Sunni – Shi’a split in Islam, which started 1,400 years ago. Iran is Shi’a and a big country besides; if it gains too much power in the region it might reduce the Sunni Saudi’s influence there. The Saudis and their allies don’t like that.

If Iran can be persuaded that it doesn’t need nuclear weapons then its use of nuclear energy to improve its citizens’ quality of life shouldn’t worry us. As long as they’re signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty they are subject to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency; they’re also entitled to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. (Note: Israel, India and Pakistan never signed the treaty; North Korea withdrew from it in 2003, and Iran’s compliance is in doubt. Part of this deal says that IAEA inspectors have the right and the expectation to make what are called “intrusive” inspections on Iran’s nuclear facilities.)

In short, what have we got to lose by doing this? We get access to Iran’s nuclear sites, we get a commitment from Iran to continue to work on a permanent deal for six months, and in return we slightly relax sanctions on Iran’s oil sales and some other activities for that same six-month period. Sanctions can be reinstated by executive action; they don’t require Congress to do anything.

The opponents haven’t persuaded me this is the wrong thing to do. The upside of a permanent deal seems to me to outweigh the downside of easing a little pressure on Iran.


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