Monday, July 20, 2015

On Iran

This past Tuesday it was announced that a historic deal was reached with the P5+1 and Iran to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions. P5+1 is a group of six world powers which, in 2006, joined together in diplomatic efforts with Iran with regard to its nuclear program. The term refers to the UN Security Council's five permanent members (the P5); namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; plus the addition of Germany.

Already there has been a tremendous amount of solidifying of positions with regards to the agreement. Many of those have fallen along party lines and it can be difficult to ascertain if this is truly, to borrow from Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, a “good deal” or a “bad deal.”

However, in my research, I have found that the answer is not so cut and dry. Part of the reason for this is because of the differing motivations of the actors in the region. For example, the United States has had an extremely complicated relationship with Iran over the past seventy plus years. For example, in 1953 U.S. and British intelligence agencies orchestrated a coup to oust Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadeq, Iran’s secular leader, because he had sought to nationalize Iran's oil industry. We should also not forget the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration, or the taking of the U.S. embassy in Tehran where 52 U.S. diplomats and civilians were held captive for 444 days. This was the same incident depicted in the Academy Award winning movie Argo.

There is Iran, who whose citizens prefer to refer to themselves as Persian rather than Arab, and who desire hegemony in the region against nations like Turkey and Saudi Arabia. What better way to be taken seriously on the national stage than to have a fully formed nuclear program.

There is also the unfortunate reality that the U.S. and Israel are heading in different political directions. One of the main connections between Israel and the United States was their military and strategic partnerships which were vested in keeping a close eye on the influence of the Former Soviet Union. With the F.S.U. heavily involved in places like Syria, the US viewed Israel as an important ally to curb Russia’s influence in the region, especially to keep the oil flowing.

However there have been several dramatic changes in recent years regarding the interests of the United States in the region. First of all, Saudi Arabia is no longer the largest oil producer in the world that honor now falls to Russia with slightly over 10 million barrels per day. Saudi Arabia is close behind at 9.7 million, with the United States producing nearly as much as Saudi Arabia with 9.3 million barrels per day as a result of such developments as fracking.[1]

Add to that all of the local domestic turmoil in the Middle East on top of the huge expenses associated with Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of human lives and money, and the United States is looking to disentangle itself from the Middle East, and this indicates to Israel and the United States having different visions and concerns for the region.

Israel is understandably incredibly nervous about this agreement. At best it only delays Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It also gives Iran access to resources that will help to fund its support of terrorism against nations like Israel. And any nation that has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel must be taken seriously. No nuclear nation has ever used the bomb for military purposes, save for one. But that does not mean it cannot ever happen again.

However there are also voices who argue that this deal could be a tremendous opportunity to further open Iran to the West and to regime change. It is true that the median age in Iran is around 28 years old, and that the forging of a relationship with Iran will help to counter the influences of ISIS and to some degree, zealotry coming out of Saudi Arabia. But I would argue that these voices are incredibly optimistic about the future. Not that there is anything wrong with optimism, but a deal based on hopes and dreams is concerning, to say the least.

How this all plays out, only time will tell. Congress will have their chance to review the deal, and we as citizens certainly have the option of weighing in. I would encourage you to do your own research. There are a lot of very wise and knowledgeable people who are reviewing this agreement, who make a lot of important and insightful points. To be honest, I am not entirely sure how I feel about this agreement. I am both deeply worried and cautiously optimistic, but I am a Jew, so that is a familiar feeling.