The nuclear agreement with Iran, forged over a long period of time, not just by the United States but by a team of diplomats representing the world’s nuclear giants, will be challenged and fought tooth and nail by congressional hawks here at home. Outcries of “it’s a bad deal” and “weakness” from Republican presidential candidates and conservative members of Congress ratcheted up long before the deal was officially announced.
It is hard to conceive of this as being done for reasons other than to garner votes, discredit the president, curry favor with the country’s right wing and to support their states’ and districts’ military contractors whose primary interest is, simply put, economic – profits being more assured by the existence of global tensions.
The political bravado and go-it-alone machismo tosses aside 22 months of herculean efforts to lessen tensions in the area.
The criticisms of the deal, not less significantly, are a rebuff to our allies who painstakingly worked together with our own seasoned diplomats to get an agreement that would assure a modicum of collaboration between Iran and the United States – countries that have had troubled relationships since the 1950s. The administration’s negotiators, as well as those of our allies and Russia – key players in the region – deserve our gratitude not rebuke and ridicule.
Those who contend that Iran cannot be trusted and “will cheat,” may have forgotten why Iran might have more reason to mistrust the United States than we have to mistrust it.
In 1953 the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated a coup ousting Iran’s democratically elected president, Dr. Mossadegh, installing Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi. The Shah’s regime outlawed opposition parties and jailed and tortured political dissidents.
In 1979 the Iranian people, fed up with the repression, revolted; the Shah fled (later dying of cancer in the United States), the U.S. Embassy was overrun, and 66 Americans were taken hostage.
A year later, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Iran.
An interesting fact about that war, and one of which many Americans may be unaware, is that chemicals were supplied by European companies to Saddam Hussein facilitating the production of Mustard Gas and Sarin Gas. The United States then made available to him satellite intelligence which enabled him to use that gas against Iranian troops as well as against civilian populations. The war lasted 8 years resulting – by some estimates – in almost one million deaths.
Considering our sabotage of Iranian democracy in the 1950s, our facilitation of the use of poison gas against the country in the 1980s and the more recent attacks by clandestine Israel operatives, it is remarkable that the Iranians agreed to come to the table at all.
Iran is not an innocent player here, but it is understandable if perceptions about who represents the greatest threat in the region should differ.
If for no other reason
than out of a sense of historical justice, Congress ought to give this coordinated, global effort a chance, for it is the first positive step in a long time which seeks to keep weapons of mass destruction in check.
When diplomacy with one’s foes is branded only and always as appeasement, the ability to forge any agreement or treaty becomes impossible. The only recourse remaining, then, is violent confrontation. Some members of Congress seem to hint that this is preferable.
Even should they so prefer, too many of the players as well as the victims in the region have had their fill of violence. This agreement provides the first ray of hope that an escalation of hostilities can, at least in part, be overcome, and that over time relations can mellow.
For members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation and their colleagues in Washington to block or water down this breakthrough agreement would weaken all of our diplomatic efforts going forward, whether initiated by a Democratic or Republican administration.
Joe Moran of Durham is a retired southeastern U.S. director of Church World Services, an international relief organization.