Tag Archives: nuclear proliferation

The Iran Deal: What You Need to Know

Foreign Ministers of Germany, the US, Great Br...
Foreign Ministers of Germany, the US, Great Britain, France, Russia and China in Berlin discussing Iran nuclear program March 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

At last, the P5+1 (the US, the UK, Germany, France, Russia and China) have announced an agreement with Iran limiting that country’s nuclear research program. Supporters of the deal proclaim “peace in our time.” Opponents cry “Munich!” Which side should you believe? Neither, really. But the deal’s supporters have the better case.

Here’s what you need to know about the deal:

First, it’s not about peace or war. War with Iran isn’t a viable option for the United States, which would necessarily do the heavy lifting. An air war wouldn’t cow Iran or destroy its nuclear capability. And having lost two ground wars against less populous and less well-armed opponents since 2001, the US is in no shape to undertake a third.

Second, it’s not about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Why? Because Iran has no nuclear weapons program. The International Atom Energy Agency has found some discrepancies in Iran’s Non-Proliferation Treaty reporting, but Iran’s religious “supreme leader” has declared development of such weapons a sin against Islam, and western intelligence agencies (including those of the US and Israel) say there’s no evidence of such development.

Since it’s not about war or nuclear proliferation, what is it about? Two things: International trade and US prestige.

Iran boasts huge oil reserves and a population of more than 75 million. They want to trade with other countries. Other countries want to trade with them. Decades of sanctions have left everyone poorer than they ought to be.

US prestige as “leader of the free world” is at stake because at least three of the P5+1 nations — Russia, China and France — will likely make their own deals with Iran even if the US bucks out. The UK and Germany might or might not stick with the US in that event. The choice for the US is to jump to the front of the parade and continue to “lead,” or else to find itself on the sidelines.

So, why the opposition among congresspeople and Republican presidential aspirants? Again, two reasons.

The first is simple power politics. American politicians and Iranian politicians have a lot in common — both groups want to run Iran. American politicians got used to doing so after the CIA overthrew Iran’s government and replaced it with a puppet regime in 1953. They’ve been throwing a temper tantrum ever since Iranians revolted in 1979. The tantrum continues.

The second reason is Israel. The Israelis fear Iranian dominance in the region and want the US to keep a lid on Iran. The Israeli lobby exerts a powerful force on US politics, both because evangelical Christian voters attach religious importance to Israel and because Israeli patrons like billionaire Sheldon Adelson write big checks to politicians who reach for the sky when Benjamin Netanyahu says “jump.”

Neither of these reasons are GOOD reasons. Peace and trade are better than cold war and sanctions. The US is better off running its own foreign policy than subordinating itself to Israel.  This deal is good for America.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

AUDIO VERSION

 

 

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

“Hysteria” or Not, the Iran Deal Will Happen

RGBStock Reactor Towers

“There’s a lot of hysteria about this deal [with Iran over nuclear research],” US Secretary of State John Kerry told Israeli TV’s Channel 10 on May 3. “People really need to look at the facts, look at the science of what is behind those facts.”

So let’s look at three key facts and one key question.

Fact #1: There is not now, nor has there in more than a decade, been so much as a crumb of evidence that the Iranian regime is attempting to develop nuclear weapons. If you don’t believe me, ask the US Central Intelligence Agency or Israel’s Mossad — they say so too.

Fact #2: It follows from Fact #1 that the purpose of negotiations is not to prevent Iran from doing something it isn’t doing.

Fact #3: It follows from Fact #1 and Fact #2 that there must, then, be some other reason for these negotiations and the proposed deal.

These three facts bring up the big question: Why do the politicians of P5+1 (the US, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany) and Iran want a deal so badly?

Working backward, Iran’ s politicians are willing to negotiate because they want US and UN sanctions lifted.

Politicos from Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany want a deal for perfectly obvious reasons: Their countries sell things that Iranians want to buy (including but not limited to arms and nuclear reactor technology) and Iranians sell things that people from those other countries want to buy (including but not limited to oil).

US politicians are, on the other hand, divided on the matter.

Congressional Republicans (and some Democrats) don’t want a deal because for the last 40 years or so “we stand with Israel” has always been a winning political bet. Even more so recently, since casino mogul Sheldon Adelson started dangling large sums of money over the heads of Republican presidential aspirants who evince a willingness to obey the commands, no matter how cockamamie, of Benjamin Netanyahu.

US president Barack Obama and his administration want a deal for two reasons.

One is that thawing relations with Iran would make great “legacy material” for a president whose real accomplishments over 1 1/2 terms in office seem rather sparse.

The other is, really, the nut of the matter. Obama and Kerry know that if the US bucks out of these negotiations on some pretext, at least four of the other five countries (the possible exception being the UK, and that’s only a possibility) will negotiate their own deals with Iran, leaving the US odd man out and bringing “The American Century” to an ignominious end.

What’s at stake here is America’s claimed post-WWII “leadership of the free world.”

As a libertarian, this looks to me like a win-win situation. If Obama gets his way, peace breaks out (sort of, anyway). If the hawks get theirs, they will have painted themselves (and their constant proposals for military American misadventures) into a corner from which escape seems unlikely.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

AUDIO VERSION

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

No, Mr. Muravchik, War is Not the “Best Option”

Early weapons models, such as the "Fat Ma...
Replica of the early “Fat Man” atomic bomb. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

“What if force is the only way to block Iran from gaining nuclear weapons?” asks Joshua Muravchik in the Washington Post (“War with Iran is probably our best option,” March 13). It’s a serious question that deserves some critical parsing before following Muravchik to his conclusion that “[t]hat, in fact, is probably the reality.”

What, precisely, does Muravchik mean by “reality?” He seems to go with the definition offered by an unnamed George W. Bush aide to writer Ron Suskind in 2004: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.”

In non-Muravchik reality, the US and Israeli intelligence communities say Iran doesn’t seem to have an active nuclear weapons program. The International Atomic Energy Agency, while publicly less sure, has reported no evidence of such a program. Why should we believe Muravchik instead of them?

In non-Muravchik reality, Iranian “Supreme Leader”  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says that pursuit or possession of nuclear weapons is a sin against Islam which his regime will never commit. Anti-Iran hawks like Muravchik insist we must take Khameini at his word when he threatens to destroy Israel or plant the flag of his Islamic Republic atop the White House. Why shouldn’t we take him at his word on this as well?

In non-Muravchik reality, Iran has cheerfully gone along with, even offered, various proposals to furnish its civilian reactors with enriched (but not weapons grade) material while forgoing enrichment itself — a concession it’s not obligated to make under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Finally, in non-Muravchik reality, the US has spent the entirety of the 21st century at Muravchik-approved war or proxy war in the Middle East and central Asia, leaving things worse rather than better in each and every instance.

Afghanistan. Iraq. Libya. Yemen. Syria. Where the US goes to war, it inevitably leaves radical Islam, rather than stable democracy, empowered and emboldened behind it. If we’re searching for irresponsible belligerence in the region, our gaze must necessarily come to rest on the stars and stripes.

And if Iran does develop nuclear weapons … well, so what? That genie’s been out of the bottle for 70 years and isn’t going back in. Yes, Iranian nukes would change the regional dynamic. But that dynamic sucks. Perhaps it’s time for an Iranian counterweight to Israel’s regional nuclear monopoly.

The “best option” — for America, for Iran and for the world — is for the United States to simmer down, take war off the table, and learn to mind its own business.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY