Thursday, September 10, 2015

Some Historical Observations on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Unless you've been living in a cave in Outer Mongolia for the last few months, you've heard of the "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action" ... otherwise known as the "nuclear deal" ... which has been worked out between Iran and a group of other nations consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, France, China, and the European Union. The essential idea behind the agreement is that in exchange for allowing some limits on its nuclear activities, Iran will get relief from economic sanctions while being allowed to continue its atomic program for peaceful purposes.

Not everybody is happy with this arrangement. Republicans in particular are beside themselves with fury, accusing President Obama of everything up to and including treason for negotiating what they consider to be a terrible deal with a dangerous and untrustworthy foreign government, ignoring the will of Congress as expressed by the "Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015," and for considering the deal to be an "executive agreement" between the President and Iran rather than a treaty constitutionally subject to Congressional review. News outlets in this country are hip-deep in stories with headlines like "21 Reasons the Iran Deal Is a Bad Deal."

Opponents of the agreement generally cite two arguments:

1) Iran has broken every treaty it's ever signed; and,

2) The Iranians can't be trusted.

Now, I don't know all the details of the agreement, and I certainly don't know whether it's a good deal or not, and by whose definition ... most of what I know is what I read in this very good summary article on CNN. Nor have I seen a list of all the agreements and treaties the Iranians are said to have broken. I also don't know whether or not we can or should trust the Iranians ... but I doubt they think they can trust us.

Yes, I'll bet that many senior figures in the Iranian government don't think they can trust us any more than we trust them. One of the criticisms thrown at the agreement by GOP critics is that "the Iranians have broken every agreement they've ever made." This may or may not be true. But from an Iranian point of view, it's the US government that has a long and distinguished history of ignoring and breaking treaties ... after all, how many of the solemn treaties signed between the US and the Indian tribes in the 18th and 19th centuries continue to be scrupulously observed today?

The Iranians also remember (even if we choose not to) that the CIA engineered the 1953 revolution that overthrew the democratically-elected government of Iran and its Premier, Mohammed Mossadegh, on behalf of Western oil companies angered by Mossadegh's decision to to nationalize the Iranian oil industry. The coup organized by the CIA put Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi - a man detested by many Iranians - back on the peacock throne ... an action that led eventually to the 1979 revolution that overthrew the Shah and put a radically anti-American Islamic government in power.

And let us not forget that the Iranians have the recent experience of seeing Republican members of the US Senate contacting them directly in an attempt to undermine their government's negotiating position. If you were the Iranians, would you trust a government that not only can't speak with one voice, but which actively seeks to undermine itself? A government including elected officials who tell them they can't trust in the worth or longevity of any agreement it signs?

Who can't trust whom?

Again, I don't know if this is the best deal that could have been worked out. I don't know if the President has handled the negotiations as well as he might, or if he should have treated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a treaty subject to the consent of a Congress that was reflexively opposed to it, anyhow. But I think that those in our government who are howling to scrap it and start over, using the threat of military force to drive the Iranians back to the table, are being abysmally stupid. After all, look how well military force has worked in Iraq ... a much smaller country. What message does it send to our allies who joined in the negotiations and who have a stake in putting limits - of whatever sort and longevity - on the Iranian nuclear program. And finally, consider that the Iranians have no particular reason to trust us any more than we do them.

Have a good day. Stop shouting and think this through rationally. Use this article by Peter Beinart to help you.

More thoughts tomorrow.



John Hill said...

As always, a good post, Bilbo!

Linda Kay said...

Good post. I've not done a lot of research on this, but what seems to be the issue to me is that everyone except us has something to gain by removing sanctions, allowing Iran to get to the money, etc. I'm not sure we can trust any foreign countries at the moment, but you are right....we do fall back on our agreements as well. Domestic issues are huge, and adding foreign issues really gets people fired up!

Mike said...

Conflict in the middle east drives up oil prices which is good for US oil production. I saw a news show recently about the collapsing oil industry in Texas. The oil industry wants another war.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

A good post, Bilbo! We've not been always fair and clear in our international policy either. I don't think that anyone expects that the problem will be solved totally, anyway.
I never want to go to places like that!

allenwoodhaven said...

But if I stop shouting, how do I drown out other voices? And if I start thinking rationally, how will I be understood? Too many people aren't used to things that make sense; it confuses them!

Good post!