When Senator Robert Menendez says that the Obama Administration should have held out for a better deal with Iran, he forgets that every day of negotiation without a deal was one more day that Iran could work on gaining a nuclear weapons capability. He also forgets that the Iranians and Americans weren’t the only ones at the table. If the United States rejects the agreement, the other five nations could still go through with it, pretty much breaking the economic embargo and isolating the United States.
Like Senator Charles Schumer, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other vocal critics, Senator Menendez never asks the question, What if there is no deal?
The status quo is as unstable as Beryllium 6, an unstable isotope with a half-life of less than a nanosecond: The economic isolation of Iran will continue and Iran will continue to build nuclear weapons. And how long will that scenario last? Only until one of three things happens: 1) Our allies in negotiation walk away from us and forge a deal with Iran that breaks the economic sanctions; 2) Iran has a fully functional bomb; or 3) Someone—the United States or Israel—bombs Iran and starts a yet another war in the Middle East.
How can any of these likely scenarios be better than a deal with inspections that postpones development of an Iranian nuclear capability for 15 years, during which time the West and Iran will have time to settle their differences, much as the United States and Viet Nam have done.
The common sense of the deal is so compelling that I find myself cynically asking what’s in it for the opponents, or better what’s in it for the network of rich donors and supporters of the various politicians who are voting or lobbying against the agreement.
Let’s first take care of the ridiculous Israel card. How could Israel’s interests (as opposed to the interests of Netanyahu’s supporters) possibly be served by passing on an agreement that keeps nuclear arms out of the hands of a government that at one time called for the eradication of the Jewish state? If we accept the premise that Iran will always be Israel’s mortal enemy—and it’s a premise that I believe is deeply flawed—how could you possibly want to not see constraints and inspections? Why would you prefer an isolated, angry and nuked-up Iran to one without a nuclear capability that is slowly reintegrating itself into the broader world economy? Why would you rather project the world view of the ultra-right Ayatollahs than that of Iran’s many secularists?
Remember that while Iranian leaders have polluted the world’s media with numerous anti-Israel statements, Iran has never taken one overtly aggressive act against Israel. It has supplied arms to Palestinians, much as the United States supplies arms to governments and insurgents worldwide. Selling arms is, however, a far cry from an invasion, bombing or sending in of drones. I understand the emotional impact of having someone scream in your face for 30 years, but that shouldn’t prevent supporters of Israel from thinking clearly.
My conclusion: anyone who is against the Iran treaty because they fear it will weaken Israel is either an outright liar or an unwitting victim to the worst kind of emotional manipulation. Let’s give the American Jewish organizations against the agreement the benefit of the doubt and say that they are all being misled. The irony, of course, is that surveys show that a majority of American Jews favor the deal, regardless of what claptrap spews from the brainwashed, co-opted or corrupted leaders of the various Jewish organizations that follow Netanyahu’s apocalyptic script in knee-jerk fashion.
That leaves only cynical reasons to oppose the deal:
- Help Saudi Arabia, which benefits the most from no deal and loses the most from the deal, because reintegrating Iran into the world economic order hurts the Saudis.
- Blindly implement a foreign policy strategy that depends exclusively on the use of force, the same neo-con strategy that has proven to be so disastrous in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Gain more contracts for defense companies who contribute to your campaign.
- Use the fear of Iran to gain power or remain in power, regardless of whether that harms your country.
I think for the Israeli and Republican Americans against the deal, all four reasons apply, whereas only the first three rationales apply to the benighted Senators Schumer and Menendez; they aren’t manipulating voters with bellicose rhetoric, only satisfying special interest groups.
But whatever the motivation, those who want to walk away from the nuclear arms deal with Iran certainly do not have the best interest of either the United States or Israel in mind and seem to prefer serving the tiny fragment of the population with large investments in defense contractors or strong ties to Saudi Arabia.