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The Iran deal is historic, but no (peace) prize

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The announcement of the terms for curbing Iran’s nuclear plans has insured President Obama’s legacy and justified his Nobel Peace Prize six years after the fact, but it will not bring peace to the Middle East, nor will it quiet America’s political establishment of its lust for war.

{mosads}The public pronouncements thus far have been encouraging, and the public can be sure that there is substance in this agreement because the conservative elements of the United States and the Republicans’ chief lobbyist, Benjamin Netanyahu — Israel’s prime minister — are fit to be tied. The louder they scream, in all likelihood, the more the public can have confidence in the integrity of the terms negotiated.

It would be nice to think that our leaders in opposition were making it clear to Iran that U.S. approval has been hard to come by because that would help to persuade their equally obdurate leader, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that he is getting a good deal. Above all, the Iranian government wants to believe that it has succeeded in gaining respect and access to the international markets as they capitulate on their arms race objectives.

The unfortunate truth is that there is a segment of American political society that believes, along with the conservative elements of Israeli society, that continued isolation of Iran will and should eventually lead to the need for military action. After all, what is a sounder foreign policy for the U.S. than another war?

For all the skeptics, there are several salient points that should be considered. First, this agreement is a solid step in de-escalating military tension at a level that actually counts as “in our national security interest.” Nuclear war, whether or not it directly targets the U.S., is manifestly destabilizing.

Second, the agreement was negotiated through an alliance with major powers, using the offices of the United Nations as an important part of the implementation and sustaining elements of enforcement. The possibilities that flow from that are hugely important to the U.S. if there is ever any hope of disengagement from the extraordinary level of defense expenditures that we have suffered in “keeping the peace.”

Third, failure to arrive at an agreement would have started a nuclear arms race in the Middle East as Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia (all natural enemies of Shiite Iran) would be compelled to match arsenals.

Fourth, the absence of nuclear arms in Iran doesn’t make Iran any less an adversary. No one is naive enough to believe that this agreement will curtail the “state-sponsored terrorism” that has clearly tied Iran to Hezbollah or the tyranny of Bashar Assad, Syria’s president. But it does sufficiently level the playing field so that Sunni Arabs can deploy similar tactics with similar abandon (which they already do, even though we don’t talk about it much in this country).

Fifth, this agreement is a significant step in the pursuit of the unspoken but clear direction of the Obama foreign policy: negotiate and disengage. Without a nuclear threat in the greater Middle East, the U.S. can continue to back away and allow the tribal, religious and military rivalries to play out. For all of us who have repeatedly pointed out that the U.S. is in a no-win situation whenever it interjects itself into matters it cannot begin to understand, it is a better move to stop being the target, excuse and foil for centuries-old animosities that govern the brutality of the region.

There will be powerful forces arrayed against the president in this country led by the neoconservatives, the pro-Israel organizations and certain portions of the military establishment. This is of particular importance since all those “freedom-loving” Americans, who might stand in support of the president, are largely unheard when it comes to foreign policy. Partly, it is due to the disproportionate influence that conservative forces have had for the past generation and partly because most Americans simply don’t pay attention — or they have programmed responses that represent little or no understanding of the complexities of world affairs.

But various factions in the U.S. have good reasons to provide support. Libertarians should be happy because it represents disengagement; liberals, because it is an internationalist approach to foreign affairs; pragmatists, since the agreement has lots of enforcement bells and whistles including a “clawback” feature if Iran fails to comply; internationalists, because it represents an alliance that hasn’t been present since the first President Bush organized Desert Storm; and historians, because it links very conveniently to President Reagan’s doctrine of “trust, but verify.”

This is an historic moment. Even though it does not represent peace in the Middle East, it is a measure of de-escalation that is worthy, worthy not only of support by the American Congress and the American public, but also worthy in that it justifies the Nobel Peace Prize that seemed to have been awarded in error in 2009.

Russell is managing director of Cove Hill Advisory Services.

Tags Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Iran Iran agreement Iran deal Iran nuclear deal Iran–United States relations Nobel Peace Prize Nobel Prize Nuclear program of Iran
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