I’m a Republican and I Support the Iran Nuclear Deal
There's plenty of cause for skepticism. But there are at least five reasons to support this tentative agreement.
The deal reached between the P5, Germany, and Iran is only provisional and important items like the timing of sanctions relief are still to be fully ironed out. The president is already making outlandish claims — “over-egging the pudding” as Francois Heisbourg put it. It is not true, for example, that “Iran has met all of its obligations,” as President Obama claimed in announcing the deal. Iran has not satisfied the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) concerns about militarization of its program, for one. And I dread the forthcoming effusion of praise from Ben Rhodes for the president’s compelling genius driving every technical detail under consideration.
But there are five good reasons to tune out the administration’s grandstanding and support this deal. Even a frequent critic of this White House can admit them. And you should, too.
1. The inspection provisions are solid. According to the details of the agreement that have been released so far, the deal provides for continuous inspection of all of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities. It also challenges inspections of any suspect facilities, and calls on Iran to sign up for the IAEA Additional Protocol, which increases short-notice inspections and IAEA access to establish greater confidence in an absence of cheating. If these are all carried out, they would amount to a robust verification regime. The inspection provisions would dramatically increase the United States’ ability to know what is happening in Iran’s nuclear programs, to judge the extent of their militarization efforts, and to anticipate “breakout” toward a nuclear weapons.
2. They’ve connected it to regional concerns. Practically every country in the Middle East (except Oman) is worried about Iran’s nuclear program. The worst outcome of this deal could end up being a cascade of regional nuclear proliferation unless, at a minimum, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt can be brought to support the deal. (Or bought, as renewed military aid to Egypt might suggest.) Obama can argue that a division of labor between the United States and its allies is emerging, with America preventing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and providing intelligence and weapons to countries in the region for them to fight Iran’s regional destabilization. It was smart of the president to invite the Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Iran’s biggest regional foes — to Camp David to hear them out and, presumably, develop policies to address their concerns.
3. The sanctions regime was eroding, anyway. Irrespective of Congressional action, we’re about at the end of the line on sanctions. Russia was never going to give the West the satisfaction of sanctions on Iran now that Western sanctions are biting Russia’s economy. And if not Russia, then also not China. Europeans have been stalwart — it’s been the EU’s curtailing of oil purchases that has twisted Tehran’s arm the hardest — but sanctions fatigue is setting in. We were at risk of a repeating the experience of Iraq circa 2002.
4. They released the terms of the deal. Secretary of State John Kerry’s extensive accounting will allow the detailed debate on the merits of the agreement that will be necessary to build support for it. Congress should give full volume to all the reasons to dislike and distrust the government of Iran. They should press the president to be more vocal and more active in pushing back on Iran’s dangerous non-nuclear behavior, such as supporting the Syrian regime and backing the Houthis in Yemen. They should debate the administration’s lack of strategy for the Middle East and offer improvements. But they should also support this deal. (Bonus points to the president for praising Congress as a “key partner” today.)
5. It closes the most dangerous gap. Previously, President Obama’s stated policy has been that the only alternative to a negotiated deal with Iran is war. But at the same time he’s been overtly unwilling to carry out his threats. President Obama’s skating back from his own “red line” in Syria in September 2013 was hugely damaging to U.S. credibility with both its allies and its enemies. A repeat of the Syria debacle with Iran would have shattered other countries’ faith in Washington’s security guarantees.
An agreement based on the principles outlined today significantly slows Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon and dramatically increases the probability that the United States will be able to detect a breakout toward one. It doesn’t mean other countries can be persuaded to reinstate sanctions if Iran cheats. (Russia will probably prevent any United Nations Security Council action.) But it’s a reasonable deal, and if implemented in conjunction with pushing back on Iran’s support for terrorism and its efforts to destabilize its neighbors, it could begin to put American strategy in the Middle East back on track.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images