We must support the Iran deal

This month Congress will vote on whether or not to sign a deal that would lift the sanctions on Iran while placing the most extensive nuclear inspection regime ever on the country. When I first heard of the deal I was surprised. I knew the administration was negotiating with Iran, but knowing how these things go I never expected it to reach the point where there is now a deal for Congress to vote on. These negotiations usually end with endless rounds of talks and with both sides eventually blaming each other for failure. But this time the talks succeeded in bringing about results. I wrote almost a year and a half ago that the Obama Doctrine was one of using smart economic sanctions wherever feasible. This was credited with getting Iran to the negotiating table and the crippling effects of the sanctions gave Iran a powerful incentive to agree to a deal.

This deal is one of the most important of our time for many reasons. First, we know that if Iran continues on its current trajectory they will probably be able to produce a nuclear weapon within the next three months or so. The nuclear deal and its inspection regime last over 10 years. So at the very least it would delay Iran from getting a weapon for the next 10 years. Second, the deal puts Iran under the strictest nuclear inspection regime ever. This means that even if they cheat on the deal we would find out very quickly. Third, some critics of the deal argue that if the sanctions are raised Iran would have 150 billion dollars to spend on terrorism. But the fact is, Iran has not stopped its nuclear program or stopped funding terrorist groups even with sanctions in place. They are already funding terrorists and will continue to do so, apparently at the expense of their own national economy. Furthermore, we can’t keep the sanctions we have in place because the European Union only agreed to the sanctions on the basis that we would be able to coerce Iran into a deal. With that goal accomplished they have no incentive to keep their part of the sanctions program in place. We have proven that while sanctions can make Iran negotiate for economic relief, they cannot make Iran stop its nuclear program. For that we need Iran to participate voluntarily and we need to have the ability to oversee them.

There are some that say the United States is the primary force applying sanctions and that should give us more leverage against Iran. I have read conflicting views about this and I don’t think it stands up to scrutiny. America was not trading with Iran much before the sanctions. Much of Iran’s oil money comes from trade done with the European Union. If the European Union no longer sees the advantage in keeping the sanctions in place, Iran will be much freer financially than it is now, there will be no inspection regime in place, and Iran will still be 3 months from a nuclear weapon.

Critics assert that the United States can somehow get a better deal, but a better deal is a hypothetical. The deal that Congress will vote on is the only deal that actually exists. The assumption that somehow Iran will be willing to return to the negotiating table after coming this far might be misplaced. In any case, with every passing day Iran will be closer to getting a nuclear weapon and there will not be any way to check them.

There are some who say that President Obama should be more direct about saying that military action will be the American response if the deal is violated. First, I think it is implied that America will make a military response to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons if necessary. Many people look at our ventures in Iraq only in terms of our failures, but what people gloss over is that it took the US military 6 weeks to end Saddam Hussein’s 24 year rule. I don’t think that fact is lost on Iran or any other nation that might find itself between the crosshairs of American military might. The very threat of American military action is probably enough to keep Iran to the agreement, even without President Obama explicitly committing America to force. Second, President Obama is being very intelligent about his use of words so as not to tie the hands of whoever must deal with the situation 10 years from now.

Given that the United States is the preeminent military power in the world it is our responsibility to make sure that anytime we use force it is for the right reasons. We have already experienced the results of using force foolishly. At the very least this deal demonstrates that the United States is prepared to exhaust every option for peace in order to avert war. If we don’t approve the deal it will send the message that we are only interested in conflict. This is not a gamble, it’s a calculated risk. We’re not betting on Iranian goodwill, we’re betting on American strength.

America is strong enough to handle the burden of doing a deal with an enemy to secure a more peaceful world. If Congress does not support the deal it will show that America does not have the political will to continue to lead the world. It will also reflect that America has little understanding of its position in world affairs. America will not lose power, but it will lose credibility as an honest broker in the Middle East and in the world. It will likely consign the world to a more violent future.

On the other hand if Congress does approve the deal, the pressure will be on Iran to live up to it. If it does not, it faces not only the wrath of the United States, but of the global community. If it comes to warfare, Iran’s defeat will be complete. Even the Iranian people will understand that their leadership and their very belief system will be to blame. Iran has incredible incentive to live up to the deal and over 10 years things may change in the Middle East for the better. If the deal is successful, the United States will not only keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, it will also avoid a war, with untold costs in lives and treasure. We could spend some time in strengthening the international community now or we could spend considerably more in fighting a war to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Make no mistake, either Congress approves this deal now or we’ll be talking about going to war in the very near future.