Iran: A Done Deal


The Empire State Tribune is proud to announce the addition of new columnist Jonah Ortiz! Jonah, a Politics, Philosophy and Economics major from California and the president of the King's Debate Society, will be writing a weekly column on all things politics. Jonah enjoys politics, cooking, writing and making people laugh, and hopes to either pursue a career in politics or to teach history in the future. He is a self-described optimist, his specialty dish is risotto and it has been over a decade since he's gone a day without drinking a Diet Coke. Please join the EST in welcoming Jonah! The political story of the week is, no, not Kanye West’s proposed bid for the Presidency, but President Obama securing enough votes in the Senate to pass the nuclear deal with Iran. Ever since sanctions were put in place on Iran in 2006, the P-5+1 countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, France and Germany) have tried to bring Iran to the negotiating table and get Iran to agree to give up any attempts at a nuclear weapons program. Now, with the U.S. Senate unable to block the agreement, and Iran and the other powers on board, it’s a done deal.

In what has been called the longest and most comprehensive nuclear deal ever written, Iran’s capabilities to develop militarized nuclear technology have been significantly curtailed. In exchange for the lifting of sanctions, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium will be reduced by 98% for the next fifteen years, to a level no higher than 300 kilograms. The enrichment level will be no higher than 3.67%. Iran’s plutonium reactor in Arak will be shut down, and all of its centrifuges will be reduced by two thirds. What this means is that Iran will not be able to build nuclear weapons; at 300 kilograms, it’s simply impossible. Without the deal, however, reports suggest that Iran could arm a nuclear weapon in two months.

Critics from the right and left have marshalled against the deal. The more hyperbolic critics, such as the ones trying to win votes in the Iowa Caucus, have compared Obama’s negotiating with Iran to Neville Chamberlain’s naïve Faustian bargain with Hitler (comparing current politics to Hitler is perhaps the most overwrought comparison imaginable, second only to saying something ‘tastes like chicken,’ or that gazing into my eyes is like staring into the beautiful depths of the ocean).

There have been more nuanced criticisms. Some Senate Republicans (and Democrats, including New York Senator Chuck Schumer) have remarked that the deal is worthless since Iran cannot be trusted. Furthermore, while all existing nuclear facilities are under constant video surveillance and may be inspected at any time, inspections of any suspected new facilities must be announced twenty-four days ahead of time. It’s like giving your teenager a few hours to clean up before you search their room for drugs, alcohol, or any undesirable paraphernalia. Additionally, with the sanctions lifted, Iran will be free to continue supplying Hezbollah, the Assad regime, and other anti-democratic forces throughout the Middle East. In his zeal to build a Presidential legacy, his Republican critics contend, Obama accepted a bad deal.

None of the arguments against the deal can go unanswered. With the International Atomic Energy Agency’s new presence in the country, any new facility could be accessed in less than four weeks, which is more than enough time to stop the facility from being built, and beyond enough time to prevent the acquisition of any weapon. While Iran may resume its pro-terror activities, it will at least not be both a state friendly to terrorism and armed with a nuclear weapon, a truly frightening prospect.

In spite of these arguments, critics ranging from the GOP to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu share one belief: if America continued sanctions, a weakened Iran would have no choice but to accept a ‘better deal,’ a deal where Iran gives up all nuclear technology. This hope, however, is dubious at best. Sanctions can weaken Iran’s economy and bring them to the negotiating table, but they cannot stop Iran from expanding its nuclear program. The sanctions since 2006 haven’t slowed Iran’s progress; nor have the sanctions on North Korea stopped their development of their nuclear program. Not even the threat of war stopped Saddam Hussein from denying weapons inspectors from entering Iraq even though he had no nuclear arsenal at all.

While it may be unclear whether or not Iran can be trusted, what is clear is this: America doesn’t lose anything by signing the deal. If Iran abides by the deal, the risk of a nuclear armed Iran, or a nuclear war between Israel and Iran, is averted. If Iran doesn’t abide by the deal, at least their military grade facilities have been dismantled, and the West can then reinstate sanctions. Rejecting the deal, on the other hand, doesn’t make Iran any further away from acquiring a nuclear weapon; they’ll just be on the same course as they are today, and no nation, whether that nation is America, Israel, or Iran, will be any safer.

Perhaps the cynics will be right, and Iran will throw out the inspectors, proving that they weren’t to be trusted. I choose to remain optimistic. I’m optimistic because there has never been a nuclear deal this comprehensive in history, and because Iran is now willing to work with a nation its leaders once called ‘The Great Satan’ (perhaps it’s Rouhani, not Obama, who made the Faustian bargain). Maybe one day we’ll call this the greatest victory against nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Or maybe I’ll be wrong. In any case, that’ll just be President Kanye’s problem to deal with.