The Iran Deal Matters

This one will be somewhat wonky, but it needs to get out there…

Obama Iran DealPolitics is the art of compromise. We know this is true because it’s the key reason Republicans can’t govern worth a crap, as well as a key reason Democrats have gotten such great things done. If you look at the greatest things this country has been able to do, the Democratic Party’s stamp is all over them. Meanwhile, because the GOP has largely been taken over by an ideology that sees any sort of compromise as weakness. It seems to be more of a product of extremism than ideology, though, because many on the far left seem to believe the same sort of nonsense. Consider how many times they’ve admonished President Obama to “fight,” even though he’s been fighting hard for seven years.

Likewise, there seems to be a belief on the part of many people that the best way to negotiate an agreement is from a position of “strength.” That’s true, of course, but most of these people have almost no idea what the concept of “strength” encompasses. For example, it takes absolutely no actual strength or fortitude to not negotiate with someone, and it often takes tremendous strength to place someone you can’t stand on an even plane with you and to negotiate in good faith.

It took a hell of a lot of guts to negotiate nuclear arms limits with the Soviet Union back in the day, even when Ronald Reagan did it. It took absolutely zero guts for George W. Bush to label Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil” and to attack a neighboring country and threaten them with something akin to “You’re next.” On the other hand, it took a lot of strength to sit down with Iran and bang out an agreement that will reduce their ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Unlike most people who have a strong opinion about the Iran nuclear deal, I have read it. It’s called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and it’s not as hard to read as you may think. (Source) Because I’m not an expert, I have also read what experts say about it and checked into the assertions they make about it, and the fact of the matter is, the JCPOA is a remarkable document, for a number of reasons.

Kerry Iran DealThe biggest reason, of course, is that it doesn’t rely on trust. There is absolutely no trust in this agreement at all. Remember the admonition, “Trust but verify” that accompanied agreements negotiated by Republicans? That’s not present this time; this agreement is all about the lack of trust earned by Iranian leaders over the years. The deal gives IAEA officials access to nuclear and potentially nuclear facilities that is not only unprecedented but was unimaginable before now.

According to a number of experts in the field, the length and breadth of the inspection process that Iran is allowing is practically a dream come true; some describe things as exactly the way they dreamed them up when they were studying this stuff. One, Aaron Stein, told Vox that the final deal was “excellent” and that “It makes the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon in the next 25 years extremely remote.” (Source) This, despite the fact that he and many other experts doubted the possibility that such a comprehensive deal could ever be worked out.

Make no mistake; Iran is giving up most of its nuclear program and will only have enough to provide some electric power. Here are some of the highlights of the agreement:

  • Iran will have to give up 75% of its current 20,000 centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium. Not only that, but the only centrifuges they will be able to use for at least a decade are extremely outdated ones that are essentially copies of those built 40 years ago in Europe.
  • Also, they will only be allowed to operate the 5,000 or so centrifuges at Natanz, and will be forbidden from enrich uranium or storing any fissile material at Fordow for a minimum of 15 years.
  • Iran will also dismantle the core of their plutonium plant at Arak and replace it with a new core that cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium.
  • Iran must dismantle every bit of pipework that currently connects these centrifuges and allows them to enrich uranium.
  • In addition, the pipework will be dismantled, removed, and kept under continuous surveillance by the IAEA.
  • Of its current stockpile of 10,000 kilograms of enriched uranium, Iran will be able to hold onto 300 kilos, which is a 97 percent reduction. That means they will go from having enough for ten nuclear bombs to having too little to make even one. That is not just a cut, it’s a cap, and that cap will be in place for 15 years.
  • As part of the deal, Iran has agreed to engage in no activity, including research and development, that could potentially lead to the development of a nuclear explosive device.
  • Under the agreement, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have full access to every inch of Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, from mines and mills to manufacturing, processing and storage, for at least 25 years.
  • Iran and the IAEA will establish a dedicated procurement channel to monitor and approve various materials related to nuclear development, including dual-use materials and technology.

The deal will extend the country’s so-called “breakout timeline,” which is the total amount of time it would take Iran to acquire enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon should they decide to violate the agreement, from the current 2-3 months to at least a year during the first decade. That’s in addition to another “breakout timeline” for building a nuclear warhead capable of delivering a payload, which is also extended to more than a year.

The only way Iran could get around all of this would be to set up a completely covert supply chain and create a covert nuclear program, which they haven’t been able to do to date and , in any case, there are safeguards against that, as well, as Iran has given IAEA inspectors unlimited, unfettered access to any location that seems suspicious. What that means is, if the IAEA has any concerns whatsoever, Iran can’t mark any site off limits; they have to allow access.

Not only is this a comprehensive deal that essentially kills Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it doesn’t rely on trust at all, which should actually put everyone at ease; we don’t have to trust the Iranian leadership; if they violate any portion of this agreement, all sanctions that are currently in place will be returned, Iran will have demonstrated its militaristic tendencies and any action that will have to be taken at that point will be justified.

As I said, the JCPOA has been praised by people far more intelligent than I as being incredibly comprehensive than anyone thought possible. Just this past weekend, 29 prominent scientists in the nuclear field sent a letter to President Obama, praising the agreement as both innovative and more stringent than they would have imagined possible. (Source)

Despite having an agreement that is far more comprehensive than any such agreement that came before, there is a significant vein of binary black-and-white thinking out there, claiming that Israel is in mortal danger under this agreement, which couldn’t be further from the truth. What you are hearing are right wing warmongers in both this country and Israel, who want to bomb the hell out of Iran no matter what. We all agree that Iran having a nuclear weapon would be a very bad thing, but this agreement makes that possible, while not implementing this agreement virtually guarantees a nuclear Iran. And sure; you could bomb their nuclear facilities and hope you hit the right ones, but in reality, while there would be a momentary victory there, the fear such an action engendered in their population would make them more determined than ever to build a nuclear program, and it would justify their support of terrorists and terrorism throughout the region.

There is another aspect of this to think about. Iran is actually really close to revolution; the Iranian people want their country back and they want to create a democracy; they want to take it back from the crazy mullahs to seized the reins of power in 1979, but the West keeps making that impossible; nothing brings a country together like an outside threat. This agreement and the lifting of sanctions will go a long way toward easing the tension and making Iran a nicer place to live, which will in turn, make Iran less likely to lash out against other nations. While Israel feels threatened by Iran, the opposite is true, as well; Iran feels threatened by Israel. This should ease the tensions there. Also, with Western inspectors constantly monitoring the country, it will be more difficult for Iran to do anything militarily without detection, which should go a long way toward easing tensions.

Our approach to Iran is not as black-and-white as many would like us to think. We’ve treated them like enemies publicly for almost 40 years, but then, when it was expedient, we allowed them to help us. I wonder how many people know that Iranian troops fought alongside our troops in the early days of the Afghanistan conflict, when we took out the Taliban and were ostensibly trying to shut down al Qaeda terrorist camps. They are also there with us in trying to get rid of ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

Iran wants to be seen as a legitimate nation, and we should welcome that at some point. The Iranian people have done nothing wrong; it’s their leadership that’s corrupt. That’s why I like the fact that the JCPOA doesn’t rely on trust. It assumes they’ll try to cheat, and there are safeguards in the agreement to prevent that.

This agreement is a great thing for the United States and the entire world. It wasn’t negotiated by the Obama Administration; China, Russia, the UK, France, Germany and the EU were all part of the negotiations, so this isn’t another case of the United States “policing” the world. It is everyone making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, which is good for everyone.

Schumer Iran dealAnd one last thing; this agreement is great for peace and stability in a region of the world that could use some; it is NOT about Chuck Schumer. Once it was announced that Schumer had decided not to support the deal, Progressive ADD set in, and that become the “Outrage of the Week.™” How DARE they even consider Schumer for the leadership of the Democratic Senator? What is wrong with him?

Well, kiddies, first of all…

The JCPOA is happening NOW. The agreement is important, and it will probably be voted on within the next few months. Replacing Harry Reid is a good 17-18 months away. Also, WE have no say in who the Senate chooses as their leader, and the Senate caucus leader has little to no real power, anyway. But most importantly, the tunnel vision shown in by this silliness shows the problem with some progressives. Schumer is undoubtedly under more pressure than most; he’s up for reelection next year in New York, which has a significant right-wing presence upstate and a significant pro-Israel Jewish presence in New York City; he has to listen to his constituents. It’s also possible that a whip count was done, and it was determined that his vote wouldn’t kill the agreement. Not that such a thing would matter. Both halves of Congress will need two-thirds to override the certain veto if Republicans insist on voting it down in the first place, and it’s hard to imagine that many Democratic votes going against the President.

As progressives, our efforts should be all about getting support for the agreement, not once again focusing on an individual politician who may not do every single thing we want him to.

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