We have a (halfway decent) deal!

Today, the U.S. announced that it has finally made a deal with Iran about its nuclear ambitions. Rather than have me explain the parameters of the deal, I’ll leave that to BBC News:

“Mr Obama, who is trying to persuade a sceptical US Congress of the benefits, said it would oblige Iran to:

  • remove two-thirds of installed centrifuges and store them under international supervision
  • get rid of 98% of its enriched uranium
  • accept that sanctions would be rapidly restored if the deal was violated
  • permanently give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access “where necessary when necessary”

So that is supposedly what’s in the deal for the U.S. How about what Iran gets in return? In return, Iran will get massive (but gradual) relief from the current sanctions being imposed on the country, as well as a return to being able to purchase conventional arms (in five years). For anyone further interested in the minute details of the historic deal, they can take a look at this post from the Council of Foreign Relations.

Rather than start off with my opinion, I want to take a look at two different views of how the current deal benefits the U.S., the Middle East and Iran. Let’s start off with someone who is clearly not a fan of the deal, managing editor of Quartz Bobby Ghosh:

Ghosh, writing at qz and Defense One, claims that Iran will now officially get a nuclear weapon. Ghosh claims that it will not happen “…right away, to be sure: the deal requires Tehran to put those plans on hold for 10 years. But 10 years is a blink of an eye in geopolitical terms. In the meantime, the deal allows Iran to send a generation of scientists to the best universities in the world for training in nuclear technology. It can also, for now, buy ‘peaceful’ nuclear power technology.” Ghosh also claims that after the ban on buying conventional arms expires in five years, Iran will seek to purchase “surface-to-air missile systems” from Russia as well as “new warships, jet fighters, helicopters, tanks, and all manner of military hardware.” Iran will have no trouble purchasing these items, as Ghosh expects the country to earn roughly $100 billion from oil revenue on an annual basis, as well as whatever the country can make from foreign investors now that sanctions on its economy have been lifted.

Ghosh also claims that the U.S. is not necessarily a “loser” in the deal (that status is reserved for Israel, Saudi Arabia and its Arab Allies), although it neither a “winner”. Ghosh makes mention of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry boasting of the “new economic opportunities in Iran” as well as a possibility that we can get Iran’s cooperation in fighting ISIS/ISIL. Ghosh is skeptical of these claims, as he states that “Iran’s interests in that fight are much narrower than the West’s: Tehran wants to ensure Assad’s survival in Syria, and to prevent the killing of Shia in Iraq. It doesn’t care if Sunnis continue to be slaughtered, or if the terrorists plot attacks against the US and other Western nations.”

Let’s move on to someone with a more favorable view of the deal, and that is Slate’s Fred Kaplan. Kaplan starts of by directly rebuking the point that Ghosh makes about how “…10 years is a blink of an eye in geopolitical terms.” Kapaln scoffs at that notion, stating that “[t]hose who object that 10 years is like the blink of an eye have got to be kidding. These same people warn that Iran could build a bomb within one year from now. Which outcome is preferable?”

Kaplan essentially breaks down the deal into four steps, the first of which he calls “Adoption Day.” This is (obviously) the first part of the agreement, where the U.S. begins to lift some economic sanctions in return for Iran coming clean about its nuclear ambitions and allowing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). After the IAEA confirms that Iran has begun to hold up its end of the bargain (i.e. no longer producing plutonium, stopping new production of centrifuges, and cutting down its uranium stockpiles), the U.S. will begin “Implementation Day”, which means lifting even more sanctions against Iran. The third step is “Transition Day”, and this takes place eight years after the deal is ratified. Essentially, more and more sanctions will be removed as Iran shows good behavior. And finally, ten years after the agreement is made, “UNSCR [U.N. Security Council Resolution] Termination Day” occurs, where all sanctions (including nuclear related ones) are officially removed against Iran.

Kaplan ends his support for the deal by issuing the following declaration: “[i]f the deal falls apart, especially if it falls apart because the U.S. Congress makes it fall apart, the sanctions will collapse as well. Then Iran will grow in strength—and be unconstrained by restrictions, foreign inspectors, and the rest.”  Kaplan praises the thoroughness of the inspections on Iran’s nuclear sites as well as on all of Iran’s potential “supply-chain” of nuclear materials. He also believes that IAEA will be able to detect if Iran tries to “cheat” the inspections. However, Kaplan does concede that should Iran fall short on their side of the agreement and attempt to limit IAEA inspections, some Western nations may be reticent to reapply the economic sanctions. Overall, Kaplan insists this is a deal worth taking.

My take: This is a deal worth taking. You’ll hear clamoring from all over the right about how this is the end of the world as we know it. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas has vowed to do all he can to convince Congress to “kill the deal.” But while it’s worth noting that this deal far from ideal, this is clearly better than the alternative. And no, I don’t mean an automatic war with Iran, which was very possible but not necessarily inevitable. I mean the fact that over the last decade, the U.S. has been so programmed to automatically respond with military force that we seem to have forgotten that it’s okay to give diplomacy a shot once in a while. So the one time we have a decent chance for diplomacy, are we as a country going to respond to the rest of the world that we are incapable of solving any geopolitical problem without military force? Are we seriously going to just reflexively say that this deal has no chance to succeed? I am far more hawkish than most of my fellow liberals (and fellow Demaocrats), and I have already admitted that I do not love this deal. But what I also know is that the U.S. will be called to war again. Possibly very soon. Let’s not make it this time though. Let’s give this deal a shot.

Congress will have 60 days to discuss and debate the deal and give this process a thorough and fair consideration. Normally, I would expect that Congress will reject the deal with an open middle-finger towards President Obama, just like they always have since 2011. However, according to Salon’s Jim Newell, “[a]ll that matters is that 34 senators or 146 members of Congress do support the deal, and Congress will be unable to stop it.” Not surprisingly, all Republican presidential candidates (yes, even the so-called “non-interventionist” Senator Rand Paul) have already stated that they would kill this deal the moment they got into office. Meanwhile, responsible people, which thankfully includes Hilary Clinton, have given this deal a thumbs-up.

UPDATE: Noted conservative talk-radio host Glenn Beck insists that this deal will lead to “a Holocaust, perhaps bigger than the last.” Rush Limbaugh is claiming that the deal is “inescapably disastrous“. We will wait to hear what other members of the Conservative talk-radio circus (i.e. Mark Levin and Sean Hannity) have to say about the deal later on today.


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