The recent Iran Deal is a subject of much debate, contention, and especially, political mudslinging. The topic is especially important in the context of the GOP primary debates, as every one of the candidates seeking the party nomination clearly opposes the deal, including and most disappointingly, Rand Paul who is allegedly the de facto “Peace Candidate” in 2016 primaries. Turning on the radio, television, or listening to the politicians express their views on the deal is especially frustrating. Even those who support the deal (i.e. the White House), have framed its nature in the wrong terms, further fueling the confusion about what is happening between the US and Iran specifically, but also Middle East geopolitics more generally.
Let’s start this in the context of “appeal to authority” type statements, just to make sure our heads are in the right place. It is easy for conservatives and those who are rightly disgruntled with the Obama administration and the Democrat Party in general to simply follow their gut reaction and oppose the deal just because Obama did it. But this is no proper way of handling any issue at all. We should therefore point out the various conservative opponents of the Democrat Party and Obama that do not oppose the bill, as the GOP establishment obviously does.
- Paleoconservative (that is, true conservative) commentator, founder of The American Conservative magazine, and advisor to several Republican Presidents, Pat Buchanan, very consistent to his old fashioned “realist” foreign policy outlook, sees the deal as a positive development.
- One of the best foreign policy bloggers in the conservative fold, Daniel Larison of The American Conservative, here praises the deal as a victory for diplomacy.
- Phil Giraldi is a conservative and former counter-terrorism specialist at the CIA and he makes the argument here that we need to be very careful that the Israel lobby doesn’t overcome the progress made in this deal.
- Eric Margolis, a self-described “Eisenhower Republican” and outstanding journalist, states in no uncertain terms that the anti-deal brigade is on the opposite side of America’s interests.
In short, there is a very strong conservative strain amongst the pro-deal faction here. There is no reason to confuse Fox News and its neoconservative fear-mongers with “the conservative position.”
Let’s now set the context for this deal before we take a short look into what was agreed upon.
We need to understand several things:
- The political struggle over Iran and their alleged nuclear weapon is much like Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD); namely, the WMDs/nukes don’t exist. Most Americans, whether conservative or liberal, mistakingly believe that Iran has nukes, or are about to have them. They don’t. David Morrison explains: “As required by the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty], Iran’s nuclear facilities are subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). And, despite many years of inspection and investigation, the IAEA has found no evidence that Iran has, or ever had, a nuclear weapons program, though Western media consistently give the opposite impression.” Eric Margolis writes: Back in 2007, combined US intelligence concluded that Iran was NOT working on a nuclear weapons program. Israel’s intelligence services came to the same conclusion.
Iran has a right to a civilian nuclear program (this would be for the development of things like electricity) under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, as Gareth Porter explains in stunning detail, the US and Israel have fought hard, against international law, to deny Iran this right. Any nuclear program that Iran is working on is perfectly in line with what they have agreed to by international treaty.
- Israel does, however, have nuclear weapons and they are not even a party to the NPT. In other words, Iran is party to the agreement and is therefore allowed to have a civilian nuclear program, but, because of the harsh pressure by the US and Israel (who is not even willing to participate in the NPT agreement), they have never come close to developing this program very far. Margolis: The Arab states and Iran have long been under NPT inspection. Israel, whose secret nuclear program was begun with help from France and aided by technology and uranium stolen from the United States, has the chutzpah to warn the world about Iran, which has so far only a civilian nuclear energy program. Israel is believed to have 80-100 nuclear warheads – why so many remains an interesting mystery.US law calls for cutting off aid to any nations that develop nuclear weapons. Congress has, of course, ignored its own law [in the case of Israel –CJE]. Thus, while the neocons in the GOP and beyond want to perpetrate the lie that Iran is a “rogue” nation, the truth is that Iran is less rogue than Israel herself.
- Even if Iran wanted to build a nuclear weapon (again, there is no proof that they are doing so), there is zero evidence, much to the opposite of the scare-mongering of Bibi Netanyahu, that they would initiate an attack on Israel. Think about it. Why would Iran threaten its entire population by launching an attack on Israel who has nukes and many other warheads, along with the backing of the entire United States military. Iran, like every other state in history, desires power over its people. This means that they want to keep that power. No state would put itself in jeopardy when one false move could wipe out the entire nation. Margolis points out: “If Iran indeed had a few nuclear weapons and all-important delivery systems why would it attack Israel? Israel has an indestructible nuclear triad: missiles, aircraft, and most lately German-supplied submarines with nuclear-armed missiles on station in the Arabian and Red Seas. If Iran attacked Israel, its nuclear forces would wipe Iran’s 70 million people off the map.” Israel is not one bit threatened by a Iranian nuclear program.
Now, in considering the development of this recent Iran Deal, we should not assume that the narrative is that Obama knows and agrees with all the above, while the GOP disagrees with it. It is actually much different than that. In reality, both the White House AND the GOP/pro-war/anti-deal faction in Congress are preaching the opposite of the above. They are all spreading the misinformation that Iran is close to a nuclear bomb, that Israel is being threatened, and that the United States has to step in and Do Something About It. What they want to do about it, however, is where the differences lie. The pro-deal faction (the White House) wants to get Iran to agree to more inspections, less uranium enrichment for their civilian nuclear program, and more Western involvement. The anti-deal faction (the GOP, including those stooges running for the Presidential nomination), simply wants to increase sanctions and (ultimately) declare war on Iran. Thus, what you need to understand is that there is not a grand difference between the two camps here. Gareth Porter makes this point very clear:
The [Obama] administration’s determination to be just as alarmist about Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions as its opponents creates a US political discourse on the Iran nuclear issue built around two dueling narratives that disagree about the effect of the agreement but have one politically crucial common denominator: they both hold it as beyond debate that Iran cannot be trusted because it wants nuclear weapons; and the only question is whether and for how long that Iranian quest for nuclear weapons can be held off without war.
The Israeli line is that the agreement is merely a temporary lull, and that it will simply embolden Iran to plan for a bomb once the agreement expires ten years hence. But for the administration’s tough-minded diplomatic efforts, Iran would have continued advancing towards getting a nuclear weapon, and that the only alternative to the agreement is war with Iran.
So to summarize: there are two factions here: The White House and the Israel Lobby (and their American counterpart, the neoconservatives). And there is one position on Iran: it is a threat, Israel is going to get hurt. And there are two solutions: 1) More inspections and regulations (White House); 2) More sanctions and war-efforts (Israel Lobby/GOP establishment).
At a historical level, this is completely understandable, and the reader will be interested to know that this split is reflective of the split between two of the major four visions of what American foreign policy should be. In an extremely short overview, you have 1: the Old Progressivist “Wilsonian” School centered around the idealist goal of making every nation a democracy through Anglo-American globalist institutions; 2: the Realist/Real Polik American Establishment “Hamiltonian” vision centered around the idea of keeping the status quo in the world; 3: the populist “Jacksonian” Tea Party “hit ’em hard and then get out” impulse; and finally 4: the libertarian “Jeffersonian” philosophical, and Ron Paulian non-interventionist view.
In this framework, the modern Neoconservatives are the idealist children of the Wilsonian School (this is why the paleoconservatives like Paul Gottfried point out that the neocons aren’t conservative at all– realism is more conservative because it focuses on the prevailing status quo relationships between world powers while Neoconservatism is more leftist, being “revolutionary” and disruptive of the current order of things.), albeit with much more of a Jacksonian “don’t care what you leave behind” bent. Since the Rockefeller financial-political interests took over Washington at the close of World War 2, the “Political Establishment” position was the Realist one. It was not until the rise of Reagan that the Neocons crept into power when Reagan attempted to clean house of the “Eastern Establishment” Rockefeller types. What resulted was a split faction between the neocons and the Establishment. Since Bush II and 9/11, however, the Neocons have earned their place in “The Establishment” and the realist tradition was left by the wayside in Washington. But this deal strikes an interesting turn back to the Realist era and a stark challenge to the Neocon Power centers. (For more on these Power paradigms, I have touched on them here.)
The recent Iran Deal, then, was a stunning blow to the extremely powerful neocon-friendly Israel Lobby that has largely controlled American foreign policy since 9/11. In fact, that event was a very opportune moment for the Israel Lobby in America and this deal was very symbolic of a rare defeat. This is why Justin Raimondo entitled his article on the Iran Deal “The Liberation of US Foreign Policy.” As Barak David wrote in Israel’s newspaper “Ha’aretz,” Netanyahu’s battle against the nuclear agreement has pushed Obama into a situation in which he must distinguish between the security interests of the United States and those of Israel, and clarify that they are not necessarily the same. This is a huge deal because for the last decade, the narrative in American foreign policy was that Israel’s interests were our own. And suddenly, with a deal, there is a necessary distinction.
Israel’s interest in destroying Iran is simply that Iran has been the primary source of defense for Palestinians who rightly and justly oppose Israeli expansion into the Palestine areas. With Iran out of the way, Israel would have no major roadblocks in their quest to expand their territory. But any deal with Iran (whether ideal or not), is, essentially, a gigantic force against Israeli expansionist plans because it keeps Iran in the picture.
What the deal essentially does is, in exchange for releasing billions of dollars in Iranian assets from their current hold-up by American sanctions (by the way, as Ron Paul always pointed out –and don’t expect the GOP candidates to make the same point– sanctions are an act of war that hurt the foreign nation’s poorest the most), it requires Iran
to cut their uranium stockpile by 98 percent: furthermore, they’re locked into an enrichment of a mere 3.9 percent, way below what would be necessary to create a nuclear bomb. And they will no longer have the centrifuges required for the enrichment process: they’ve agreed to reduce their working centrifuges from nearly 20,000 to 6,104 – and those remaining are outmoded, inefficient, and in the event the Iranians would try to use them to produce highly enriched uranium would soon be identified by on site inspectors as in violation of the accord.
Moreover, it allows for increased IAEA inspections to verify that the above was accomplished and these inspectors are allowed to have a presence in Iran for the entire life of the accord (ten years). Basically, the deal makes it much harder than previous for Iran to develop its civilian nuclear program that it needs to use for energy purposes. It further restricts their ability to utilize uranium for peaceful purposes and it requires that they eliminate most of what they already have (which isn’t a lot).
Of course, against the Neocon/Israel Lobby fear mongering, this eliminates any chance Iran could possibly have in making a nuclear weapon (as if they could before the deal). It is simply not possible to a greater extent than before. So when the neocons and GOP candidates go on and on about how this deal allows Iran a “path to a bomb,” they are simply and plainly bloviating nonsense. If they were really concerned about Iran having a bomb, they should love this deal, because it goes even further than previous agreements have gone in picking apart Iran’s entirely legal civilian nuclear program. But naturally, they aren’t really just against Iranian development of a warhead, they are also against the very existence of Iran itself, primarily because they desire the expansionist plans of Israel to be fulfilled. These Neocons, who see war as the first solution to everything –leading Justin Raimondo, David Stockman, and others, to refer to them as the War Party (a label that brings together the warmongers from both political parties)– don’t ever want to try diplomacy and negotiation.
Now, from our own perspective, this deal was unnecessary for the American interest and only took place because, as expressed above, the White House takes up the wrong paradigm on the nature of Iran’s relationship with Israel. In other words, while it is good that the Israel Lobby does not get their way and that (at least for now) there will be no Israeli-Western attack on Iran, it is saddening that Iran has been forced into this interventionist scheme by the Obama administration simply because it needed (understandably) to have its sanctions lifted and its assets returned (which the US government stole in the first place). Iran already has tremendous Western-led inspections and oversight in place; they already must stay compliant to various international agreements and agencies; they already had caps on their uranium enrichment process; they are already one of the most scrutinized nations in the world. Iran is not at all an aggressive danger to Israel or the West (in fact, they are one of the biggest threats to ISIS, as Iran has an interest in defending ISIS’s chief enemy: Syria) and they have never been found in violation of their treaty obligations. They haven’t invaded another country in over 200 years and they have never sought to invade or harm the United States. This deal merely continues this trend of making things more difficult on Iran and doesn’t provide the context to reveal the truth about Iran-US relations.
While the deal was ultimately unnecessary, this doesn’t mean that Washington’s alternative, which is war, is better. The benefits of the deal, unfortunately, are summarized in the idea that “at least we aren’t bombing them.” Sadly, this is considered “good” in the land of American foreign policy. We do prefer diplomacy and peace over war. We support the idea of negotiations with Iran over bombing them. We are glad that Obama laid a blow to the Israel Lobby. And therefore a deal is better than a Western attack and a new war in the Middle East. But the specifics of this deal are worse than what we can only dream of: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none” (Thomas Jefferson). In other words, “Realism” is better than “Idealist Neoconism,” but Jeffersonian non-interventionism is better than both.
We ought to long for truth in world affairs, and for American foreign policy to reflect that truth.