In Praise of Diplomacy…Yes, Even with Iran

In Praise of Diplomacy…Yes, Even with Iran

In Praise of Diplomacy…Yes, Even with Iran

International relations are rarely simple even between nations with long and amiable histories. The Iran deal isn't just about nuclear weapons; it's also about building relations—something everyone should care about

   
In Praise of Diplomacy…Yes, Even with Iran
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By the first week of September it was a fait accompli that the Islamic Republic of Iran would enter into an accord with the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany—collectively known as the P5+1—to veer away from its quest to obtain nuclear weapons, in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Despite its being a done deal, with the accord going forward with or without the U.S.—and the political reality is "with," since the Obama administration secured the senatorial votes necessary to make it so without the president even needing to exercise his veto power—the Republicans continued to play politics, maneuvering to oppose the deal for the sheer sake of opposing it. “You use every conceivable tool if you think this is a bad deal, and I do," said Rep. Peter Roskam, one of the Republicans who orchestrated one such maneuver to fight the deal, even while recognizing that its passage was unstoppable.

One tool the Republicans never bothered to implement is suggesting an alternative to the accord that better achieves the goals of preventing, or at least delaying, a nuclear Iran, which some experts say could have its first nuclear weapon within three months.

"I challenge those who are objecting to this agreement to [… e]xplain specifically where they think […] it does not prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon […] and then present an alternative," President Obama said in late July. "If the alternative is we should bring Iran to heel through military force, then those critics should say so."

The Washington Post's Paul Waldman opines that the Republican position is informed by antipathy, not security.

"Negotiation means talking to those we hate, and even offering them concessions," he writes. "Successful negotiation ends with an outcome that our adversaries actually praise, when what we really want is for them to fall to their knees and surrender to our might. This is what elected Republicans believe, and more importantly, it’s what they’ve been telling their constituents for years, so it’s what those constituents demand. So there was literally no deal this administration could have negotiated with Iran that Republicans would have agreed to. None. From their perspective, the substance of the deal never mattered."

No-one denies that the deal is not ideal. But one can get a sense of how it is likely the best available option from the fact that in mid August Gary Samore, founder and president of the bipartisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), resigned his position due to his belief that the deal was in the U.S.'s and the world's best interests. As The New York Times put it, while UANI revved up a multimillion-dollar PR campaign against the accord, "it is Mr. Samore’s quiet departure as president of the organization that is resonating among the small community of experts who have pored over the agreement."

Why most of the world fears a nuclear Islamic Republic of Iran is no mystery, what with its support Hezbollah and the Assad regime in Syria and its stated desire for the elimination of Israel.

But Americans would do well to keep in mind that U.S. actions sowed the seeds for the emergence of the Ayatollah as the dominant force in Iranian politics by engineering the coup d'état that deposed Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, then further contributed to alienating Iran from the West by supporting Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in his eight-year war on Iran, which included the use of chemical weapons against civilians. Had the U.S. pursued a more diplomatic path, it's hard to imagine that Iran's relations with the West wouldn't be better than they are.

Moreover, there is hypocrisy inherent to six nuclear powers attempting to force another country from acquiring the same sort of power. As is clear from the fact that the P5+1 are not about to give up their respective nuclear arsenals, while using such weapons may be unconscionable, having them as a deterrent has obvious benefits. (It may be worth noting here that the U.S. maintains a nuclear arsenal 15 times larger than that of any other country, save Russia.)

The point here is that the myriad issues in play are not straightforward and should be considered in context. But what is inscrutable is the belief that perpetuating a lack of relations with Iran somehow benefits the rest of the world.

The rhetoric de jour against the Iran nuclear deal is to compare it with the "appeasement" of Nazi Germany by the leaders of Britain and France. But as Dominic Tierney writes in The Atlantic, that parallel "quickly fall[s] apart."

"[T]he Iranian threat can’t be compared to that of Nazi Germany—a great power set on world domination," Tierney noted in April. "Furthermore, in 1938, Britain and France orchestrated a pact with the devil virtually alone. But now the entire permanent membership of the UN Security Council plus Germany (known as the P5+1) is negotiating collectively with Iran. […] In 1938, Hitler’s only real concession was not to start an immediate war. By contrast, in exchange for sanctions relief, Iran will have to accept some of the toughest restrictions ever imposed on a nuclear program."

Perhaps just as important as encouraging Iran not to develop nuclear weapons, as well as providing the international community with a better chance to monitor Iran's nuclear program than could be had otherwise, is how the deal opens up lines of communication between Iran and the West and fosters a milieu in which Iran is better able to develop a range of interests that overlap with those of the United States and Europe.

Such agreements are, after all, part of the story of how the Cold War ended. As Tierney points out,

There were profound doubts about enforcing the terms of the agreements. And neither deal stopped the Soviets from engaging in acts of aggression, including the invasions of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Afghanistan in 1979. But the Cold War treaties diminished the odds of crisis or war. Kennedy and Nixon recognized that the United States could parley with Moscow and still pursue an overarching strategy designed to change its adversary. JFK said the Partial Test Ban Treaty “will not resolve all conflicts, or cause the Communists to forego their ambitions, or eliminate the dangers of war.” Nevertheless, it was a “victory for mankind” that would reduce nuclear testing and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

International relations are rarely simple even between nations with long and amiable histories, let alone between nations like the U.S. and Iran that have actively worked at cross purposes. But relations are better than no relations. Unless one country is prepared to completely conquer or extirpate another, there is no alternative to having relations with each other, because even open warfare must end at some point.

In Contingency, irony, and solidarity, Richard Rorty views moral progress as "greater human solidarity," which he defines as "the ability to see more and more traditional differences (of tribe, religion, race, customs, and the like) as unimportant when compared to with similarities with respect to pain and humiliation—the ability to think of people wildly different than ourselves as included within the range of 'us.'"

The best way to do this is to engage with the people and cultures "we" traditionally think of as "them," to create and further common interests in this world we share. What, after all, is the alternative?

 

Photo by:  United States Department of State


About the Author:

Except for a four-month sojourn in Comoros (a small island nation near the northwest of Madagascar), Greggory Moore has lived his entire life in Southern California.  Currently he resides in Long Beach, CA, where he engages in a variety of activities, including playing in the band MOVE, performing as a member of RIOTstage, and, of course, writing. 

His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, OC Weekly, Daily Kos, the Long Beach Post, Random Lengths News, The District Weekly, GreaterLongBeach.com, and a variety of academic and literary journals.  HIs first novel, The Use of Regret, was published in 2011, and he is currently at work on his follow-up.  For more information:  greggorymoore.com

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Last Updated : Wednesday, December 16, 2015