I sometimes wonder if short-term elected positions don’t inherently limit their holders’ abilities to consider a future further out than the next election year.
It would explain a lot about our Congresscritters’ general eagerness to destabilize or outright destroy other governments without really considering what will happen to the territory that government held, or more importantly, to the people within it.
Because here’s the thing about this weekend’s nuclear deal with Iran: it is, as critics have complained, fairly small potatoes on the defense side. Even assuming full compliance with the agreed-upon restrictions, Iran will still be able to, if seized by a fit of self-destructive madness, plug the centrifuges back in and spin up a bomb’s worth of weapons-grade nuclear material fairly quickly. By defense experts’ best guesses, it could take anywhere between one month to three months from the word “go.”
(Worth keeping in mind: doing it without telegraphing their actions and inviting a pre-emptive strike from the increasingly loose cannons in Israel would take significantly longer, as would getting the material installed in a useable weapon.)
So as far as concessions go, this isn’t an immediate and unconditional surrender. But we’re not at war with Iran (despite some misconceptions to the contrary), and we don’t really have any legal or moral right to demand concessions from them, apart from those extracted through the traditional and tedious process of diplomatic negotiations.
Which is exactly what we, and the other P5+1 nations, pulled off this weekend. That’s how it’s supposed to work. You give a little, you get a little; no one goes home exactly happy but on the bright side no one’s at war, either.
And vastly overlooked, to my mind, is the positive benefit of opening up and at least slightly stabilizing Iran’s economy.
I don’t think it’s all that widely acknowledged here in America, but economic sanctions against Iran have been a devastatingly effective weapon, and I do mean that in the sense of a tool that causes damage and injury. The Iranian economy has been in freefall for years now, with inflation climbing to 45% this summer. Unemployment is rampant, people who do have jobs don’t necessarily get paid for doing them, food prices can change daily, and starting or expanding businesses is basically impossible due to the lack of both currency and imported equipment. It’s a mess, it’s unstable, and it’s getting worse.
All of which is well and good, if you want to reduce a country to rubble and refugees without paying for air strikes. But that does beg the question of whether we want an Iran comprised of rubble and refugees, and whether we as a nation want to be the ones responsible for that devastation.
Even setting aside humanitarian concerns — which we shouldn’t — history is not short on lessons showing what happens when you isolate, cripple, and impoverish a nation. “They apologize for their wrongdoing and become a happy and loyal vassal state of the power that destroyed them” is not usually among the outcomes.
The sanctions have to be lifted sooner or later. There is no politically sane or humanitarian alternative. Better to do that at the negotiating table, in the framework of agreements where Iran’s economy is slowly normalized at the same time that their nuclear program is slowly pacified, than after a true crisis.
It’s a pity our vacationing Congresscritters — many of whom, from both sides of the aisle, are taking time during the Thanksgiving recess to pound their chests and vow to vote in new sanctions just as soon as they’re done with their turkey — are unwilling to look ahead more than another election cycle and see the obvious consequences of an unrelenting economic war on Iran.