UPDATE [August 21, 2015]: Added another important link: http://www.armscontrol.org/pressroom/press-release/2015-18-08/70-Plus-Nuclear-Nonproliferation-Experts-Announce-Support-for-Iran-Nuclear-Deal.
I have carefully reviewed the arguments for and against the Iran deal. I find the arguments for it extremely credible, and those against it unconvincing.
There are four options: the already-negotiated agreement; some other agreement to be negotiated instead; continued isolation and sanctions; and military action against Iran. Let’s consider these in reverse order:
- Military action against Iran. It would be a violation of international law. The U.S. would have to essentially go it alone since the rest of the world shows less than zero interest in it. The American people have no desire to embroil the country in yet another failed Middle Eastern war.
And “failed” is the key. We’ve seen how much the western world’s attempts at regime change have improved things and reduced chaos and danger in the Middle East (as in, not), and absent regime change, military action against Iran is far more likely to cause them to accelerate their push for The Bomb than slow it down.
- Continued isolation and sanctions. Isolation and sanctions were not actually stopping Iran from advancing its military nuclear program. They only put the work on hold when the rest of the world started negotiating a deal with them. If we return to isolation and sanctions, they’ll keep working on The Bomb, and without inspectors and monitoring, we’ll have no way to stop them.
Furthermore, most of the rest of the world has made it clear that they’re all done with isolation and sanctions, and in particular several members of the U.N. Security Council would veto any attempts to impose them. The very nature of isolation and sanctions is that they only work when everybody does them. Anyone who thinks that the U.S. can unilaterally impose effective isolation and sanctions on Iran, or that it would be a good idea for it to try, is living in a fantasy world.
- Some other agreement. Opponents of the current deal have offered no credible alternatives. They’ve alternated between “no deal is better than this deal” (as for that, see above) and vague, incoherent descriptions of a fantasy deal to which, even if it made sense, Iran would never agree.
None of the people involved in the negotiations think that the world could have convinced Iran to accept a more restrictive agreement than what’s on the table. The people who say otherwise don’t actually think so either; their “we want a better agreement” is dog-whistling for “we don’t want any agreement at all” (as for that, see above).
That leaves the already-negotiated agreement as the only viable option.
I will not speculate on why so many politicians in Israel, and so many Jewish communal organizations in the United States, have come out in opposition to the deal. I will, however, point out the following:
- Bibi Netanyahu’s record of predictions about Iran is not particularly good.
- To draw a parallel on the topic of communal political delusions, it is still widely accepted dogma in the Republican party that trickle-down economics is sound economic policy, despite decades and decades of data which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt to any rational thinker that the opposite is true. That a bunch of people espouse a particular theory is not ipso facto indicative of its correctness.
- Many of the American organizations opposing the deal have a history of marching in lockstep with whatever the Israeli government says, and their opposition is therefore irrelevant to any rational evaluation of the deal.
- When Israel feels threatened, it tends to revert to a circle-the-wagons, us-against-the-world, we-can’t-trust-anyone mindset. There have been times when this has been a wise strategy; this is not one of those times. No one involved in negotiating this deal wants Iran to have a nuclear weapon. No one is ignoring the “existential threat” that Israel would face from a nuclear Iran.
- It is impossible to separate opinions on the deal from the highly partisan political climate in which they are being formed.
- It is also impossible to ignore the political considerations and calculations influencing people’s public stances. Many Israeli politicians have made the rational, albeit cynical, calculation that the deal is likely to go through regardless of what they say, and publicly opposing it is therefore a “free” way for them to improve their support among hawkish voters.
It is important to note that opposition to the deal is not nearly as “universal” among supporters of Israel as the deal’s opponents would have people believe, and repeated claims to the contrary should be dismissed as at best ignorance and at worst propaganda intended to dissuade people from rational analysis.
Speaking of rational analysis, here’s a reading list of the best and most relevant material I’ve seen in support of the deal :
http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/a-special-place-in-hell/ (registration required)
This article is not specifically about the Iran deal, but rather more generally about the inability of American conservatives to support any non-military solution to problems such as this one:
And on a lighter note:
If you agree with me that ratifying this agreement is in the best interests of the United States and Israel, then please, contact your senators and representative and tell them so. Opponents of the agreement are mobilizing to lobby Congress, and our elected representatives need to hear from supporters too.