Why critics of the nuclear deal are wrong

Max Fisher offers Mike Doran a platform for his case against the nuclear deal with Iran. Here are ten ways in which Mike is mistaken:

1. MD: Detente is the strategic goal, and arms control is the means to achieve it.

President Obama has made it clear he would welcome a broader detente with Iran, but he has also made it clear the nuclear deal has to be judged on its own merits. I don’t see any evidence that he is prevaricating, but if that is Mike’s claim he should produce the support.

2. MD: I don’t think it [preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon] is achievable without a significant coercive component. I think this is one of the most faulty assumptions of the administration.

Trouble is, the Obama Administration does not make that faulty assumption. It has done much more than any prior administration to increase the sanctions pressure on Iran, far more than the Administration for which Mike worked.

3. MD: [The Iranians] want sanctions relief and they’re going to get it, and they see that they’re going to get it, and they will stick with this process as long as they get direct, immediate, and very desirable benefits from it.

That is precisely the point of the negotiations: to provide sanctions relief provided Tehran gives up its nuclear weapons ambitions for at least ten years and moves itself back from a “breakout” of two or three months to a “breakout” time of a year. This is not an argument against the deal. It’s an argument for it.

4. MD: In fact, the starting point is that the Iranians want hegemony in the region, and they’re reading American policy with respect to their regional aspirations. The goal of Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not to defend against the United States or Israel — it’s to advance its regional agenda.

That’s right, and it is also a very good reason for halting Iran before it gets nuclear weapons. Again: a very good argument for the deal.

5. MD: I’m in favor of a vigorous containment program across the board, and I’m also in favor of a policy that says we have all options on the table and we mean it. The president says all options are on the table, but he doesn’t actually mean it, and I think we should mean it.

This confidence that his opponents know better than what the president says is laughable. The debate over destroying the Iranian nuclear program has clarified the limited gains it would provide: only two or three years of setback and an enormous incentive for Iran to redouble its efforts. But the notion that showing resolution by sabre-rattling would improve the prospects for a good deal is simply wrong.

6. MD: For a time the Iranians certainly believed all options were on the table. They abandoned their weaponization program, or they put it on hold, in 2003. Well, what happened in 2003? The United States went into Iraq, and I think they were probably very concerned at that point about all options being on the table.

The Iranians were concerned then about an American invasion, which is no longer a viable threat no matter who is president. But they spent the rest of the Bush Administration building and spinning thousands of more centrifuges, a fact Mike conveniently forgets.

7. MD: The very process of the negotiation is destroying the sanctions regime we established, which is the greatest nonmilitary instrument we have for coercing them. 

This is laughable. The process of negotiation is absolutely vital to building and maintaining the multilateral sanctions regime. Without negotiations, the Europeans, Russians and Chinese would not be on board for sanctions.

8. MD: Iran’s status in the international community is going to be greatly improved, and then there’s going to be an international commercial lobby and a diplomatic-military lobby, which includes the Chinese and the Russians, in favor of the new order in which Iran is a citizen in good standing in the international community that they can do business with.

This is true, but misleading. That “international commercial lobby” already exists. If no agreement is reached, the sanctions are mincemeat. The notion that we can continue to hold on to them indefinitely is nonsense.

9. MD: The key question in that regard is, “When did he start to see Iran as a partner in Iraq?”

When the whole question of the status of forces agreement in Iraq was alive in 2010, [former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon] Panetta and [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus and everybody are saying, “Keep forces on the ground in Iraq,” and the president had a different inclination. Well, if the United States is not going to be directly involved in Iraq, then who is going to protect our interests and protect stability in Iraq? And I think that, although he’s never admitted this, he assumed the Iranians would play that role for him.

I would say it was the Bush invasion of Iraq that gave Iran its big opening in Iraq. But leaving that aside: George W. Bush, not Barack Hussein Obama, negotiated the agreement for the complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. It was signed before he left office. What Mike is talking about here is an attempt to renegotiate that agreement, which the Obama Administration did pursue. But the Iraqis weren’t willing to give the US juridiction over its troops in Iraq and we weren’t willing to stay without it.

10. MD: If the Iranian regime — and I do believe they are rational — were truly put before the choice, if Ali Khamenei was put before a choice of “Your nuclear program or absolutely crippling, debilitating economic sanctions,” he would think twice. I think if he were put before a choice of “Your nuclear program or severe military strikes,” he would think twice.

So how do you get those crippling economic sanctions, whichc have to be multilateral, if you are not also negotiating with Iran? Absolutely no realistic proposal.

Here at last, the true agenda: get us into war with Iran, but note no mention of the only temporary setback to the Iranian nuclear program (and consequently the need to intervene repeatedly every couple of years), no mention of the likelihood the Iranians would redouble the efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, no consideration of the impact on the world economy, or secondary consequences (relations with China, Russia, the Europeans, Iranian responses in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, maybe also Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE).

Here is the kicker: if you really want to go to war with Iran, you’ll be much better off doing it because they violated an agreement than just doing it. So a nuclear deal is a good idea if that is your objective as well.

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