Let's strip off the political spin and self-serving public statements and see if we can get down to the bare naked essentials of what this nuclear deal with Iran is all about.
The first question is whether this deal degrades Iran's ability to build a nuclear bomb. The answer is clear and simple: yes, it does. Of course it does for goodness sake! It is stunning to hear opponents of this deal claim that it does not, or even more ridiculous, that this deal does exactly the opposite and instead paves the way to a nuclear bomb for Iran. These claims are absurd.
The entire deal is all about preventing Iran from being able to build a bomb and it is full of all sorts of measures for doing so. Iran has agreed to cease its current operations toward building a bomb, decommission nuclear centrifuges and other facilities, surrender 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, and permit thorough inspections inside Iran so the world can verify that Iran is complying.
The opponents of the deal also say that Iran is not to be trusted and might cheat, which would enable Iran to build a bomb in secret. Well, as it just so happens, the international community thought of this. The agreement includes a very detailed regime of inspections specifically designed to detect any cheating, and if Iran does cheat, the world can re-impose, or "snap back," the sanctions against Iran. Makes sense.
The naysayers also make much of the fact that the agreement contains "sunset" provisions under which the central restrictions on Iran expire in 10 or 15 years. They say that Iran is thereafter permitted to build a nuclear bomb. Well, no, that is flatly not the deal. This agreement does not in any way permit Iran to build a nuclear bomb, ever.
One must keep in mind that even without this new agreement, other laws are already in place that prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb, including the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, to which Iran is a signatory. This new agreement is like an additional layer on top of all the other existing laws, and when the portions of this new agreement expire, the existing laws will still remain in effect.
So when the portions of this agreement end, we will be in no worse position than we are in right now today. In fact, we will likely be in a much better position because not only will we have gained invaluable insights into Iran's nuclear infrastructure and technology through inspections during the term of this agreement, but also, this agreement provides for an enhanced protocol of transparency in Iran that continues long after the 15 years.
And even if Iran were to renege on this deal, we would simply return to the same position we are in today, including snapping back into place the sanctions against Iran. Not much downside there.
Yet the deal offers considerable upside. The central benefit, of course, is that if this agreement is respected, we will have sidelined Iran's nuclear program for at least 10 or 15 years (and maybe longer because Iran promises to give up nuclear weapons forever). This delay alone is a significant benefit to the entire world.
So this is the deal that is on the table for Congress to approve or reject - Iran will ice its nuclear program for at least 10 to 15 years and allow the world to vigorously inspect Iran to insure compliance, and in exchange we will lift the economic sanctions against Iran.
As Congress considers whether to approve or reject this deal, we will no doubt hear loudly from the obstreperous right-wing fringe element opposed to the deal that the deal paves the way for Iran to build a nuclear bomb. ome of them have already started stomping their feet and crossing their arms. In fact, a number of the Republican presidential candidates have already spoken out against this agreement without even having read it. But none of these people will be able to offer any credible evidence to support such a position.
Another objection to this deal is that by lifting the sanctions against Iran, we are enabling a bad-boy nation to get back into business. As a result, Iran will use this newfound wealth to continue its bad-boy behavior, such as supporting terrorist groups and unfriendly militias in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world. And indeed, as part of the sanctions relief in this deal, we are in fact agreeing to lift the arms embargo that will then permit nations to sell non-nuclear arms to Iran.
Ahhhh, now this is a more sophisticated and complex issue.
Let's call a spade a spade here. Yes, this is a problem. In fact, this is likely the main reason that Iran is entering into this deal in the first place.
Looking at it from Iran's perspective, why would Iran do this deal? Well, of course, to obtain relief from the sanctions. Yes, but why? Why does Iran so strongly desire relief from the sanctions, and why at this particular time? The answer seems apparent.
The Middle East right now is in a state of instability, unrest, and uncertainty. Power in the region is up for grabs. Iran seems to view this situation as the great game of the next decade, and sees this as an historic opportunity to grab power and territory for itself. Iran is no doubt eyeing some prime real estate in Iraq, and is also seeking to assert influence and control in places like Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon.
Iran is making the strategic calculation that it is well worth the bargain of giving up its nuclear pursuits for 10 to 15 years in favor of the more immediate goal of seizing more power and control in the region for itself. To do so, Iran needs more money in order to finance military initiatives, and this is the reason lifting the sanctions is so critically important to Iran at this particular moment in time.
Lifting the sanctions will quickly give Iran access to approximately $150 billion of its own assets that are presently frozen under the current sanctions, and will subsequently lead to additional revenue streams from business operations as Iran welcomes foreign investment into its country. This is a healthy amount of funds for advancing some pretty significant military objectives.
So some who are seeking to derail this nuclear deal are pointing to the likely nefarious ambitions of Iran as a problem with the deal. They contend instead that the sanctions should remain in place against Iran in order to prevent Iran from gaining access to this new source of funds and then using it to foment trouble.
While keeping sanctions in place against Iran may sound like a good idea, in practice it is not so easy to accomplish.
The main problem is that there is no justification for keeping the sanctions in effect. The entire reason for the sanctions in the first place was as a response to Iran's refusal to allow nuclear transparency. So now that Iran is in fact allowing nuclear transparency, there is no justification for continuing the sanctions. Hm.
Now, of course, the international coalition could always vote to keep the sanctions in place for the new and different reason of the concern over Iran fomenting trouble in the region with conventional, non-nuclear weapons. But the reality is that there is not enough support for doing so among the nations in the coalition.
The second problem is that it is probably not even possible to keep the sanctions in place. A number of countries in the international coalition are desperately champing at the bit to do business with Iran and had only reluctantly agreed to impose sanctions for the specific reason of Iran's lack of cooperation on nuclear transparency. But now that Iran is willing to cooperate on nuclear transparency, these various nations are no longer willing to continue the sanctions and would likely fall out of the coalition on their own accord even without this new agreement.
So if the sanctions will likely melt away anyway, we might as well enter into this agreement now to obtain as much benefit as we can from Iran.
Yet those who oppose the overall deal will no doubt argue loudly that it is a bad deal because we should not lift the sanctions against Iran. That is nice and easy to say, but far from easy to do. If Congress rejected the agreement now, the sanctions would likely dissolve on their own anyway and we would then be left with nothing in return. This would be a worse situation than entering into the agreement now and obtaining all the benefits that the agreement provides.
So it seems that entering into the deal is the wiser choice.
But this still leaves the world beset with the distressing problem of an Iran suddenly flush with cash and potentially eager to spend it on fomenting trouble in the region. This is true. And this problem does indeed need to be addressed. But the way to address this problem is not by tanking the nuclear deal with Iran, as that would not solve the problem anyway. This is a separate problem that needs to be solved with separate solutions and new diplomacy.
Unfortunately, the lifting of the sanctions against Iran may result in an escalation of conflict in the region. Iran may seek to use its newfound source of funds to build-up arms, and this would then likely cause the opponents of Iran in the region to build-up arms in response. Not good.
Now, one might be resigned to conclude that a build-up of conventional weapons in the region is less worse than an all-out nuclear arms race. Be that as it may, the nations of the world must nonetheless waste no time in convening to address the foreseeable problems that may occur as a result of lifting the sanctions against Iran.
Another little wrinkle with the deal is that it greatly benefits Russia. Mr. Obama puzzlingly referred to being surprised by Russia's cooperation in this deal, especially in light of the fact that the United States had imposed sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Well, of course Russia cooperated in this deal because Russia stands to benefit from it.
When sanctions are lifted against Iran, international money will flow into Iran. And what will Iran do with all this money? Well, a good portion of it may be used to buy goods, including arms, from Russia. This will serve as a source of revenue for Russia that is a back door to the very sanctions that the United States imposed against Russia.
Oh well, you can't win them all.
While entering into this nuclear deal with Iran is far from perfect, it nevertheless offers a potential for optimism. First of all, it would delay Iran's nuclear program for at least 10 to 15 years, and this alone is a significant benefit. But also, by lifting the sanctions, Iran would begin to reintegrate into the world community and form business and other alliances. Iran would then be incentivized against returning to its nuclear activity or engaging in egregious behavior in the region because such conduct would jeopardize these newfound alliances and threaten to once again marginalize Iran as a rogue state.
Iran is an important nation with a great historic legacy to humanity, and also a nation that has suffered great exploitation at the hands of western nations, including by the United States. Reintegrating Iran into the world community could offer Iran the potential to achieve far greater influence through participating in legitimate governance than through waging a military insurgency.
The only way to know would be to offer Iran a fair chance to become a responsible nation.
Entering into this nuclear agreement with Iran is a step in this direction.