Fear of diplomacy

Sorry I can’t embed John Oliver’s commentary here at peacefare.net, but it is worth a few minutes to go enjoy it over at Youtube.

I can however offer this

from Connecticut’s Senator Chris Murphy, who is less funny but easily more interesting. His talk this morning at the Carnegie Endowment put the nuclear deal in the context of a Washington that is shies away from diplomacy–too risky–and tilts instead towards war, for which America is amply well-prepared. He also suggested that rejection of the deal would leave the US no other serious alternative, as the multilateral sanctions, constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and international inspections would evaporate.

This is the vital link in the logic that should lead to support for the deal even among those who don’t like it. Rob Satloff, whose writing I generally admire, argues that it is a false logic. The Congress can reject this deal, he suggests, and still get a satisfactory outcome. I find his argument thoroughly unpersuasive, stringing together an unlikely sequence of events that doesn’t even get us far into the future without resorting to war. Nor does he consider the reaction of the other countries that negotiated the deal.

Senator Murphy is far more realistic. He understands, I think, that rejection of this deal would be the equivalent in our time of Congress’ rejection of President Wilson’s League of Nations. It would put the US in the position of going to war as the only remaining resort rather than implementing an agreement four other permanent members of the UN Security Council find acceptable. Even Saudi Arabia and Israel, now strident opponents of the Iran nuclear deal, would not applaud the US as Iranian missiles rain down on Tel Aviv and the Kingdom’s oil fields. Instead they will be arguing for US ground forces to stop the barrage.

What happens if we reject the deal and refuse to destroy the Iranian nuclear program? Then Iran gets nuclear weapons quickly. Anyone worried about Iranian troublemaking in the region–an entirely well-founded concern–would then have a lot more to be concerned about. A nuclear Iran would no doubt throw its weight around more rather than less.

The Senator made a few other points worth mentioning in his post-speech conversation with Karim Sadjadpour. Even with the deal in force, he thinks the US will retain the right to impose sanctions on Iran for reasons other than nuclear issues. He suggested we would do so if Iran were to execute a terrorist bombing of Israeli tourists, for example. The Senator admitted that US companies are likely to be at a disadvantage in the competition for Iranian business. He thought US anti-bribery legislation would help to protect the business Americans do from capture by regime hardliners.

The Senator was hesitant on one issue: restoring diplomatic relations with Iran. That’s a long way off he suggested. He admitted that the US will need a real presence in Iran to ensure implementation of the agreement but was unwilling to commit to an interest section, suggesting instead that the IAEA inspectors might suffice.

In my view, they won’t, because their remit is entirely technical. I served seven years abroad in US embassies working nonproliferation issues. I think we need our own people in a diplomatically protected facility in Tehran, if only on two and three week trips. But maybe the time is not yet ripe for that proposal. Let’s get the agreement through the uphill fight in Congress first.

PS: If John Oliver didn’t satiate your taste for videos, try this less funny one from Jon Stewart last night (with President Obama).

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