Opponents of the Iran nuclear deal say it’s a bad deal because Iran cannot be trusted and will violate the agreement. Okay, I’ll take the bait. Let’s agree that will be the case. Now, here are two scenarios:
Scenario 1: No deal
Congress rejects the deal and has enough votes to overturn the President’s veto. There is no deal. The Iranian leadership says this validates their belief that the U.S. cannot be trusted. They tell their nuclear scientists to go full speed ahead to develop a nuclear arsenal. They also begin a massive domestic media campaign to convince the more liberal populace that the U.S. truly is evil. It makes sense as Iranian liberals’ hopes are quashed. There will be no change, only more repression.
The Russians react by saying the U.S. cannot be trusted, Obama does not speak for America, only a reactionary Congress and that the U.S. is simply a surrogate for Netanyahu. Defiantly, Putin announces that Russia is going to reopen trade of all types including weaponry with Iran. China is less vocal but announces that trade with Iran will resume and that American presidents cannot be trusted.
Germany is stunned by the American rejection and Merkel announces that it has become clear that Germany has to go its own way and as the leader of Europe, will take Europe along. France goes along and even a restructuring of NATO is discussed in European capitals.
The Israeli government rejoices as their hegemony over American policy in the Middle East is cemented. They begin to draw up contingency war plans with Iran with the belief that they can force America’s hand into a war to support them. The right wing Israeli and American media machines begin to beat the drum.
President Obama suffers a huge defeat in guiding American diplomacy. He loses stature abroad and is crippled domestically. He gets sympathy only from the British. Neither the Germans nor the French want to entertain any proposals from the U.S. and reject the idea of new sanctions. They plan to try to negotiate their own trade deals with Iran and leave the U.S. out in the cold. Republicans celebrate Obama’s defeat as the victory they have been working on his entire presidency. Boehner and McConnell announce that the deal’s rejection is a display of American strength and that Congress will guide the country in the presence of a feckless president. They make a lot of noise about negotiating a better deal but can’t find international support.
Scenario 2: The deal stands
Congress approves the deal (not likely) or more likely, it fails to override the president’s veto. The deal goes into effect although the Iranian government expresses concerns that Congress is not behind the president. They go along, however, as they believe, as many in the Middle East do, that strong leaders rule countries.
The Russians and Chinese, while skeptical, acquiesce and resume trade with Iran based on the parameters of the deal. The Germans, French and British do the same and along with the U.S. actively develop the structure for monitoring, inspection as well as activities to try to normalize relations with Iran.
Obama wins international acclaim and is said to finally deserve his Nobel Peace Prize. The other negotiating powers concede that his administration held firm and delivered on the deal they all agreed to. They seek other areas for continued international cooperation.
While the U.S. wins respect abroad, Republicans, Netanyahu and Fox TV go into 24/7/365 PR war. (Is that any different from what they’re doing now?) Nonetheless, Netanyahu suffers a defeat and vote of no confidence in the Knesset. He calls for new elections to take place as he proclaims this as the path to Israel’s destruction. He gains support from right wing American Jews, Republicans and Fox News. They all call Obama and Kerry worse names than before and provoke the Republican candidates for president to have massive tantrums. The mainstream media loves it. Life goes on.
But let’s bring in two alternative scenarios to this:
First, let’s assume Iran and everyone else abides by the agreement.
Not much to say about this. Iran slowly moderates as its populace discovers consumerism and enjoys cheaper cell phones, blue jeans and motorbikes. Israel periodically beats war drums but does nothing unless attacked first. Iran becomes a richer country and has more international clout, sometimes to the advantage of the U.S and sometimes to our detriment. Pretty much the way the world works now.
Second, let’s assume Iran violates the deal.
We catch them red handed a few years into the deal. Unfortunately, we catch them late, just as Israel and the deal’s opponents thought we would and they’re much farther along in developing dooms day weaponry. Now, what do we have? The Iranian economy has rebounded. They’ve become a stronger country in the region AND they’ve developed nuclear weapons. Now five major countries are embarrassed. They’ve cooperated, pushed and tugged at each other until they could come to a deal with an adversary. They’ve built up trade and now this. By the terms of the agreement, the sanctions go back into place immediately. The U.S. will argue forcefully that the sanctions must be even tougher than before, and if Iran becomes belligerent, we may have to impose an air and sea blockade. How much clout will the U.S. have if this happens? More because our government followed through with the agreement? Or less because we rejected the deal and no deal ever took place?
It’s really quite simple and the argument is much more eloquently made by Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune in his editorial of August 12th, “What if Iran Cheats?”
But what I think is at the core of the deal’s opponents is fear. Fear has been stoked by the American right wing, AIPAC, Fox News and Netanyahu’s government. Decisions made out of fear have never been successful. Obama has been compared to Neville Chamberlain’s cave to Hitler but that actually was a decision made out of Chamberlain’s fear that the Nazis couldn’t be stopped. Churchill’s stubbornness in the face of war, Roosevelt’s decision to go into war were made out of the security that we needed to stop foreign aggression, not kneel before it. And if you think the Iranians are being foreign aggressors, ask yourself who has gone to war in the Middle East before, not through surrogates of tribal terrorists but directly with troops and warplanes and cruise missiles. After you do that, look at the American flag and ask yourself what are you afraid of?
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