The deal is done. The agreement is made. The ink is dry on the so-called “Iran nuclear deal,” which is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). So what do we make of it?
If you listen to most Republicans, some Democrats, and most of the conservative media establishment, the deal is a bad one, and bound to lead to a duplicitous and concerted effort on the part of Iran to circumvent the deal, move forward with a clandestine nuclear program, and reap the benefits of the lifting of sanctions agreed to in the JCPOA.
According to an opinion piece on breitbart.com, the deal will, among other things, allow the Iranians to use funds freed up by the lifting of sanctions to fund terrorism and the Iranian military. Additionally, it will not permit Americans to be a part of the IAEA inspection teams that will inspect Iranian nuclear sites.
Those are scathing (and largely true) critiques. Yet, do they signify that the deal is a bad one?
SOFREP itself pointedly commented on the deal, as well, noting that Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, is the international terrorist group responsible for the highest body count of Americans, pre-9/11. Again, a fair—and true—point.
So, do these critiques mean the deal is a bad one? There are a lot of brickbats being lobbed at the JCPOA, and even at the idea of a deal with Iran. Israel is also opposed to the JCPOA, and it appears, to any agreement at all with Iran. Saudi Arabia, too, does not favor an American nuclear deal with Iran. Are they both right?
The latter is probably too simplistic a question. There are rarely black and whites in international relations. There are only the muted greys of national interests and policies that serve those interests. That is why America, and the rest of the world, largely ignores instances of African genocide, but acts swiftly when ethnic tensions threaten stability in southeastern Europe, for example. National interests, my friends.
So, Saudi Arabia and Israel are probably right in opposing a deal with Iran, as far as their own national interests are concerned. After all, Israel (rightly) sees an existential threat in Iran, and Saudi Arabia sees a regional political rival, dominated by an antagonistic religious sect antithetical to that of its own ruling family. The interests of neither country, then, are served by a rapprochement between America and Iran.
So, should that stop America from pursuing a deal with Iran?
Here is a perhaps controversial, and possibly even shocking, newsflash: American interests are not always the same as Saudi interests. They are not even always the same as Israeli interests.
Exhale the gasp you have just inhaled, take a deep breath, and absorb that smart bomb of truth. After all, it is rarely ever put out there by the pundits and political mouthpieces, largely because it is too complicated and sticky a point to effectively explain to the masses. The politico-pundit elite are either not sure you can grasp the subtleties of international affairs, or they want to wave the dismissive Jedi hand in front of your eyes, and have you unwillingly ignore realities that conflict with their preferred policies. “These are not the droids you are looking for.”
Well, I know better. I know that the readers of SOFREP are able to understand the complexities of international relations, and can understand how a deal that might be good for the United States might not be perfect for Israel. Or for the Saudis. I have faith in you all, the readers.
Hell, the deal might not even be perfect for America. But guess what? Neither is doing nothing, and therefore allowing an Iranian nuclear program to continue unchecked. Does that mean that war is the only answer? If so, start handing out the draft cards and raising the taxes, because who wants to fight it, and how will we pay for it? I am guessing there are a lot of veterans of our last 14 years of war out there who would say, “No, thanks.” I, myself, surely do not want to spend more of our tax dollars invading another country in southwest Asia so that we can have another nation to rebuild and pacify for the next 15 years. No, thanks.
So, was the deal worth it? We keep coming back to that question, don’t we? That is the right question. I would argue, yes, it was worth it. No deal is perfect, in international affairs or probably in any other single facet of human existence, so if perfection is the threshold, then the JCPOA is surely a failure.
If the threshold, however, is simply to check the Iranian nuclear program, and stave off yet another war in the Middle East, then it appears the JCPOA is a qualified success. I would argue it is “qualified” because it will take concerted effort on the part of the United States, and the rest of the world’s involved parties, to insure that Iran does not circumvent the deal and continue to move forward with its clandestine nuclear program.
It will also take a diplomatic effort on the part of America to reassure skittish allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, that the United States will not allow Iran to threaten their existence, or even significantly, their national interests, no matter what the deal might say. Again, the JCPOA is not perfect, but what ever is in international affairs? The United States will need a long-term diplomatic and intelligence effort to keep Iran in line, and the JCPOA affords a beneficial infrastructure from which to operate.
In addition to these larger, geopolitical benefits of the deal, BBC News also points out that the JCPOA significantly shrinks Iran’s uranium stockpile, limits its future enrichment of uranium, prevents its production of plutonium at the Arak heavy water facility, sets up extensive monitoring, verification, and inspection protocols, and provides for IAEA inspections of Iranian nuclear sites, as and when deemed necessary.
These are all positive aspects of the deal, as far as America and her allies are concerned, and yet they will still require extensive effort on the part of the intelligence and energy agencies of the United States to ensure their full implementation. No one doubts that, nor should anyone doubt those efforts will be expended.
Again, the JCPOA provides the framework under which America will likely be able to keep Iran a non-nuclear power for at least the next 10-15 years. That sounds sure-as-hell cheaper than a war, at this point. For that reason, I say we ought to give it a go, with eyes wide open, and operating under reasonable and heightened suspicion of Iranian motives and actions.