Critics on the Deal with Iran (Munich, redux?)

Is the newly-inked deal in Geneva a “historic mistake” as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu states or a “good deal” as Barak Ravid writes in Haaretz?  A thoughtful contrarian, Michael Rubin, makes the case that diplomacy with Iran creates a dangerous precedent:

He should not be so certain. Rather than prevent Iran’s nuclear breakout, historians may mark the Geneva deal as the step that most legitimized Iran’s path to nuclear weapons capability.

Willing to deal is not synonymous with sincere desire to reach a comprehensive settlement. Key to successful reconciliation is truth, and there are many reasons to doubt Iranian intentions, none of which did the Geneva negotiators address. Iranian authorities say they seek nuclear technology to ensure domestic energy security, but as the Bipartisan Policy Center showed, Tehran could achieve that aim for a fraction of the cost and for decades, if not centuries, longer if it chose to invest instead in its pipeline and refinery infrastructure.

via Iran deal risks creating another North Korea – Global Public Square – Blogs.

Israel makes an interesting bellwether on the issue. They are stuck in an unenviable position with several facets.

Easing economic sanctions against Iran, Israel argues, will only remove the pressure that brought Tehran to the table in the first place. Yet Israel — as well as the United States — sees initiatives to improve the Palestinian economy as a critical companion to the political and security discussions.

Do these alternate approaches to parallel issues that are crucial to Israel’s future amount to hopeless hypocrisy? Or are they simply a sign of the profound differences in the way Israel views the two problems and its starkly different role in the two sets of talks?

“Looking at how Bibi views these negotiations tells you a great deal about how he’s seeing the world,” said Aaron David Miller, a Middle East expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, using the nickname of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “Bibi’s self-image first and foremost is shaped by wanting to lead Israel out of the shadow of the Iranian bomb. His image is not driven by being the peacemaker, creating two states and dividing Jerusalem.”

“Both offer pathways that are incredibly problematic for him,” Mr. Miller added. “It’s like the rest of the world is playing checkers and he is forced to play three-dimensional chess.

via Israelis See Ticking Clock...

But even before we consider strategic considerations on Israeli national issues, this is a tectonic change in geopolitical regional alliances between both Israel and Saudi Arabia and the US.  In the end, as Roger Cohen writes, the outcome is not clear:

Diplomacy involves compromise; risk is inherent to it. Iran is to be tested. Nobody can know the outcome. Things may unravel but at least there is hope. Perhaps this is what is most threatening to Netanyahu. He has never been willing to test the Palestinians in a serious way — test their good faith, test ending the humiliations of the occupation, test from strength the power of justice and peace. He has preferred domination, preferred the Palestinians down and under pressure.

On a different front, Dan Drezner weighs in on WSJ Bret Stephens and other conservatives who go berserk over the Munich analogy. Quoting a takedown from Reason magazine that sees the comparison of the Geneva diplomatic deal to Munich as “a crude, ahistorical gimmick to escalate military confrontation.”

The good professor has a few wise words for future would-be foreign policy pundits–invoking possibly shaky historical analogies:

See, there’s a curious but understandable asymmetry in foreign affairs punditry. Warning about an apocalypse that does not happen doesn’t exact that much of a toll on a pundit’s reputation. After all, it’s the job of the pundit to warn about the dangers of world politics, to pore over the downside risks of every region, to spin tales of looming disaster in the air. That’s perceived as prudence by readers. And if the predicted end of the world doesn’t happen? Well, that’s likely because the pundit’s loud warnings prompted preventive action (or so they will tell themselves as they drift off to sleep). Via


7 thoughts on “Critics on the Deal with Iran (Munich, redux?)”

  1. Iran may not have pure intentions and may be “winning” in this deal, but countries have got to start trusting one another. Of course history is one long story of countries distrusting and backstabbing one another leading to more and more conflicts and problems, but It seems to me as if there is absolutely no trust left in the system sometimes. The fact that Iran was willing to make the deal and take diplomatic steps forward is a good sign to me. Although we should perhaps not fully trust Iran, diplomacy will never have a standing to go on if we never try to make it work. If the world wants to step away from force and militaristic power, it has to take a step towards diplomacy, even if it seems dangerous. To become diplomatic, one has to act diplomatically. Thus, I am of the opinion that we should cut Iran a bit of slack in this instance and trust that this deal is a win for diplomacy on all sides.

  2. Michael Rubin definitely makes a strong case. The thing that really gets me is the observation that it would make more sense for Iran to invest in their pipeline and refinery industry rather than their nuclear programs. While it is clear that the economic sanctions are hurting Iranian citizens, it does not seem that Iran’s intentions are purely humanitarian. It seems ludicrous to me that after so many years of fighting for the right to develop nuclear technology, Iran would suddenly about-face on their stance. It would not be surprising if after a couple years of relieved sanctions Iran re-implemented their nuclear program.

  3. I think it is crucial that we observe a great deal of caution in this matter. I think Israel has every reason to fear this to be a “historic mistake,” and I think it is very important that we honor our alliance with Israel in acknowledging their fears and doing everything in our power to assure them of our continual support. President Obama has done a pretty shabby job at this during his presidency. I think we must be very cautious as we enter into any agreement with Iran, and remember that our alliance with Israel is first and foremost to any political effort to seem more diplomatic with Iran. We must be loyal to Israel

  4. I think that the United Nations should be pressing on Iran instead of working out this deal. I think that the world cannot afford to have Iran as a nuclear power, there is simply too much of a risk for this to be possible. Personally, I am afraid that our generation will look back to this matter as the beginning of the first ever nuclear war. Action must be taken on this matter before it is too late.

  5. I think Kerry walked away with an applaudable deal. There really isn’t too much problem with Iran gaining nuclear technology; the real danger lies in Iran militarizing that technology. If measures can be ensured that will draw the line firmly there, then that is a chip more than worth throwing to Iran on the bargaining table. It’s entirely reasonable for Netanyahu to be very concerned though; the balance of power has been relatively comfortable for Israel recently and it looks like things could be changing. I think, though, that Rouhani seems sensible enough to think of Iran’s future – and giving the capable and ambitious youth of Iran a chance at globalization seems more important than regional dominance. Economic standing may be more powerful than military standing in the new world.

  6. As Ryan points out, the Iranians don’t derive any economic advantages from using nuclear power. Iran has to import fuel into its country because they don’t have the refinery capacities to turn their crude into a usable resource. That fact a lone casts a huge shadow over the “we have the right to use nuclear energy” argument. Yes, I suppose as a sovereign nation any country may have the “right” to make energy by nuclear means, but when the numbers don’t add up true intentions become more foggy. Furthermore, the reactors the Iranians have built are intentionally designed to create the nuclear tailings necessary to build nuclear weapons. Not all nuclear reactors create the kind of nuclear waste necessary to refine plutonium; when other countries have offered to help Iran build the less dangerous “light water” reactors, Iran has refused. If there is no injunction in this agreement to allow inspections to Iran nuclear sites, Iran will eventually have the bomb.

    Some have argued that Iran is no different than any other country, and while I agree that the Ayatollah isn’t likely to deliver a nuclear warhead directly, the possibility of terrorist organizations getting access to nuclear weapons definitely increases with Iran’s possession of nuclear warheads. While I don’t think that central Iranian leadership would be foolish enough to use nuclear weapons, it doesn’t seem to farfetched to see radical sympathizers seizing an Iranian nuclear warhead and using it for their own ends. Terrorist groups are not always easy to manipulate-they can get out of control of the puppeteers. Just look at how Hezbollah has struck its own people within Lebanon.

  7. The more these negotiations unfold, the more skeptical I become of Iran’s intentions. When Hassan Rouhani first came into office, my attitude was, “Why not give peace a chance?”. I was completely in favor of resolving the nuclear issue diplomatically. However, in order for diplomacy to succeed there must be a certain level of trust between the negotiating parties. A couple red flags have made it clear that Iran is adamant about obtaining a nuclear weapon. One suspicion is Iran’s unwillingness to allow inspections to nuclear sites. Another is the Ayatollah, the supreme leader. In a recent New York Times article, writer Thomas Erdbrink points out that “Ayatollah Khamenei is leaving his options open and can always ask hard-liners to step in if he doesn’t like the way the talks develop.” And if asked upon, “the hard-liners have the money and means to mobilize a formidable opposition.” Khamenei is testing the negotiation waters to see how little concessions he has to give in order to get complete relief from economic sanctions. If the talks go south, he has Rouhani to blame and the hard-liners to support him.

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