The announcement of the nuclear deal with Iran on Tuesday was met with a storm of criticism, much of which came from people who by their own admission had not read it. Anything that involves nuclear weapons and a rogue regime deserves more serious consideration.
That consideration also needs to happen in the real world. Unicorns, rainbows and a Middle East that resembles a New England town meeting are not on the table. Holding out for something like that risks making the perfect enemy of the good.
The agreement is between Iran and six other nations, led by the United States. And it focuses exclusively on nuclear weapons. It is important that it is not solely a U.S. deal, for with that, it is not just a President Barack Obama deal. Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany are on board, as well, and all can help, with negotiations and perhaps with monitoring and enforcement, as well.
The immediate opposition came from several quarters. Some is simply partisan politics and Obama hatred; if Obama did it, it must be wrong. Some reflects the same magical thinking that led to the United States’ disastrous invasion of Iraq. And some, primarily from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi King Salman, comes from concern for interests other than those of the U.S.
Sorting those out will be difficult but should be done. And it should be with an eye toward what is best for American interests.
Republicans understandably oppose the president on many fronts, which reflects honest philosophical differences, as well as party politics. But Obama’s support for something does not automatically constitute a logical reason to endorse its opposite. The Iran agreement is supposed to help keep nukes out of the hands of crazies. Denouncing it without actually knowing what is in it or hearing from military and foreign-policy experts about how it might work is irresponsible and dangerous.
Opposing the deal because it is not warlike enough is just plain nuts. The neocons who pushed the invasion of Iraq thought the U.S. could not only destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime but remake the country into something reflecting American values. They were wrong, and Americans paid dearly for their hubris. At the least, Obama is right not to repeat that error. That some of his critics seem willing to is frightening.
The U.S. has been continuously at war in the Middle East for more than a decade. We do not need to attack another, larger Muslim country.
That the leaders of Israel and Saudi Arabia oppose the deal seems odd. (When was the last time those two nations agreed on anything?) The best explanation for that was put forward by Fred Kaplan on Slate. What worries those countries’ leaders, says Kaplan, is that with this agreement, it “might rejoin the community of nations, possibly even as a diplomatic (and eventually trading) partner of the United States and Europe.”
Israel and Saudi Arabia are, for different reasons, functionally at war with Iran. And, as Kaplan put it, “What Netanyahu and King Salman want Obama to do is to wage war against Iran – or, more to the point, to fight their wars against Iran for them.”
The details of the Iran deal are still being explored and explained. Congress should find out about those provisions, think them through and hear from people knowledgeable about the region, the situation and possible real-world options. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.