Is the proposed agreement with Iran a deal that serves American interests? A complex question.
The consensus is that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon but could produce one within a matter of a month. Absent an agreement we must assume that Iran can develop one within weeks.
Are the only options, as asserted by President Obama and Secretary Kerry, this agreement or war? Of course not. That rhetoric is designed to sell it to both Iranians and Americans. The real question is: does this agreement serve the long term, not just the short term, but long term interests of the United States?
What about the claim that: “Obama and Kerry gave the store away to get an agreement to preserve their legacy”. This claim is logically inconsistent because a bad agreement is a bad legacy. No president wants to be remembered by the deal that went wrong. It is also inconsistent with reality. The reality is this agreement was negotiated between the world’s great powers: the U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, the EU, Russia and China on one hand, and Iran on the other. Iran is a regional power facing a failing economy, restive young population and less than friendly neighbors. None of the world powers wants another Middle Eastern war against a Muslim nation. Nor do they want another nuclear armed nation surrounded by instability.
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In addition to having a nuclear weapon, a nation, or a terrorist group, must have an effective delivery capability. Iran has aging, Russian-designed missiles. These missiles aren’t a threat to the United States itself, but could reach U.S. bases in the Middle East. The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a non-partisan think tank, says these missiles could reach Israel, Turkey, and possibly Southern and Eastern Europe, but lack guidance systems to be effective military weapons and can’t carry large payloads at a distance. Iran lacks bombers and many of its fighters are Viet Nam era U.S.-built F4 and F5’s. Thus, Iran lacks an air force able to deliver nuclear weapons.
The agreement includes a dispute resolution process should either party believe the other is not in compliance. If we find Iran is cheating, we can reinstate sanctions.
Why should Iran abide by the agreement? One simple word: oil. Iran has about 11 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves. Once sanctions are lifted they will have access to international capital to redevelop capacity, creating tremendous economic growth. The U.S. and world economy should benefit by lower energy prices and reduced reliance on Russian energy exports.
What about Israel? If Iran abides by the agreement, Israel is much better off. If Iran doesn’t, Israel is in relatively the same position as today.
Will this agreement serve our long term interests? Only time will answer that question, but based on its safeguard provisions, it deserves a chance.
William L. Enyart is a retired major general and commander of the Illinois National Guard and a former 12th District Congressman.