Thursday, July 16, 2015

We Have a Deal

The United States, its European allies, Russia and China reached a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. The deal would force Iran to reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent, eliminate 12,540 of its 19,000 centrifuges, eventually lifts the weapons sanctions and economic sanctions against Iran and allows International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to access and inspect Iranian nuclear sites. Sanctions could be reinstated if Iran violates the agreement.
This isn't a bad deal, but it's not exactly a great deal either.  It's good, but it's not great.  After all, it does allow Iran to keep a third of its centrifuges, and it also allows Iran to grant or deny access to its sites.  While the deal allows the Iranians to send arms to Iraqis and Syrians fighting the Islamic State, it also allows them, theoretically, to send arms to Hezbollah and other jihadis.  But it does make it practically impossible for Iran to cheat, and as noted, the deal is off if the Iranians somehow do cheat.
None of this has impressed Republican lawmakers, who have the right to block the deal, or Republican presidential candidates, who vow to block the deal.  If they can't, then all of the Republican candidates are prepared to cancel it should any of them become President in January 2017.  But President Obama has vowed to veto congressional rejection of the deal, which the Senate has little it any chance to override. The Republicans would need thirteen Democrats to join them, and that's not likely, at least at the moment.  And if - God forbid - Obama's successor is a Republican, he'd be universally condemned if he tired to back out of it . . . because the deal is a multinational, not a bilateral, agreement.  Pulling out would making the U.S. the skunk of the world and mean ticking off the Brits, the Germans, the Russians, and, well, everyone else.  Republicans are still ticked off themselves over the 1979-81 Iranian hostage crisis (Oops! The hostages were American, not Iranian, yet "Iranian hostage crisis" is what people call it), and Scott Walker speaks for Republicans in general and Generation X Republicans in particular when he recalls the yellow ribbons he helped tie onto trees and utility poles back then when he was twelve years old.  (Scottzo: That's just the trouble.  You were twelve years old.  How many world leaders approach foreign policy with a seventh-grade understanding of international relations?  Oh, wait, you dropped out of college, didn't you?)  The hostage-crisis card is getting so old, even the Canadians - who helped us get Americans out of Iran in 1980 by letting them pretending to be Canadian upon leaving the country when the Iranians would have detained them for simply being American - must be saying, "Get over it already!"
Once again, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is virtually alone among world leaders in his condemnation of  the deal.  He still believes that it will allow Iran to gain the upper hand in Middle Eastern affairs and destabilize the region further, when he should be for the deal because it pretty much stops Iran from getting the bomb.  As with opponents of the Affordable Care Act, no one who opposes this deal has a better idea.  Least of all Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who advocates making war on Iran and says that such a war would only last "a couple of days."
In the meantime, though, we should give a round of applause to Secretary of State John Kerry, who redeemed his loss to George Walker Bush in the 2004 presidential election.  He can leave the negotiating table in Vienna with his head held high.    
Let's hope this deal works out better than that other famous deal negotiated in Vienna (the 1979 SALT II arms agreement with the U.S.S.R., which was never ratified).

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