Primer: We all have that friend who appears to thrive on delivering bad news. There’s a good chance we might be that person. People love giving bad news. Negative information empowers the messenger. Giving bad news makes us feel important. The only reason why is because people listen. The information impacts people and exploits the recipient’s sense of decency to not respond ambivalently. This is what the news media has become. It tells us on a daily basis that violent crime is up, that terrorist threat levels are rising, that common household items will kill us. Bad news always grabs more attention.
A parade of talk radio personalities and editorialists know this. Once we’ve gotten used to seeing more and more negativity around us, we actually begin to actively seek it out. The more awful it is, the more we want it. This is why a myriad of misinformation has surrounded the arms deal with Iran. The truth is that world is not a vortex of despair, and the nuclear agreement with Iran has been, at least up to this point, successful.
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Saturday afternoon the Associated Press reported that Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, is welcoming the implementation of the nuclear agreement reached with Iran in 2015. Iran has met all of the commitments outlined in the deal. According to his statement, Saturday’s achievement shows that “dialogue and patient diplomacy are the best ways to address worries about weapons proliferation.”
The optimistic view would be that Iran will continue to respect it’s commitments and that this agreement will remain unmolested. The hope is that cooperative dialogue will continue between Iran, the United States, and the five other world powers who negotiated the fifteen-year agreement. There is enhanced possibility for security and stability in a region that has been unstable, unpredictable, and antagonistic towards the west for decades.
Saturday afternoon, President Barak Obama signed an order to lift economic sanctions on Iran. This was done only after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certified that Iran had met its obligations to curb its nuclear program. While this deal concretely deprives Iran of pathways to develop a nuclear arsenal, critics have been loud and steadfast in insisting that this agreement will have the opposite effect.
The administration’s case has been to open dialogue and delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In this, the administration has been successful. After decades of contention and lack of communication between governments, the United States is engaged in active, productive dialogue with the Republic of Iran. As President Obama expressed in his address Saturday, “A strong, confident America should advance our national security by engaging directly with the government of Iran.”
There are material benefits, as well. Two thirds of Iran’s centrifuges have been removed. More than 98% of Iran’s nuclear stockpile has been shipped outside of it’s borders; it now holds less material needed to manufacture a single nuclear bomb. After decades of expansion, Iran’s material progress towards developing a nuclear arsenal hasn’t just been stopped, it has been reversed.
The most legitimate criticism cites the time-frame of the nuclear agreement; constraints on Tehran’s nuclear program will terminate after fifteen years. With the lifting of sanctions, it is expected that Iran’s economy will expand dramatically. Over $100 Billion dollars in assets that have been frozen overseas will be released back to Iran as a result of President Obama’s executive order. New oil, trade, and financial opportunities will empower Iran significantly over the next fifteen years, and there are fears that Iran will be in a better position to quickly and efficiently develop a nuclear arsenal once the deal expires. By that time, it is also possible that Iran’s economy would be strong enough to withstand reimposed sanctions and that it’s nuclear installations would be better protected; it is expected that Iran will increase its air defense systems with the help of Russia.
The clock is ticking. But the time-frame is concrete, comprehensible, and provides opportunities for world governments to develop strategies should diplomacy fail. Before the nuclear agreement, the global community had “it’s only a matter of time.” The anxiety generated by the unpredictable nature of Iran’s nuclear program buttressed the resolve of war hawks, and served to reinforce the idea that armed conflict would be the only solution. Nobody knows what Iran will look like in fifteen years, who it’s leaders may be, and what our relationship to their government will be like. In the interim, the United States will be in a better position to negotiate deals with Iran for the future, even after the nuclear deal expires, and maintain peaceful relations.
Misinformation has circulated that Iran will be allowed to select it’s own inspectors, allowing ample opportunity for corruption. These reports surfaced in August of 2015 and were refuted within hours by the IAEA. This did not stop radio hosts and media pundits from repeating this misinformation. This did not prevent a contingent of our political leadership from repeating this misinformation.
There are claims that the agreement protects Iran from punishment for future violations. The truth is that no aspect of the agreement prevents the United States from re-implementing sanctions should inspectors discover that Iran has violated the agreement.
A consensus of polls reflects that an overwhelming majority of American citizens support this deal, despite the near fifty-fifty divide we see on capital hill. When messages are tirelessly repeated on the airwaves, it does not make them any more factual. The call to arms from Netanyahu, Huckabee, Cruz, Kristol, et al, does not represent the attitude of the majority of Americans. These politicians, it would be important to note, were on the wrong side of history leading up to the conflict with Iraq, and there is no reason to believe that their aggressive posturing towards Iran is any more legitimate.
It is surprising that individuals often don’t take the advice they routinely give their children: use your words. Every opportunity should be made to exhaust dialogue and diplomacy with foreign governments before we commit our armed forces to lethal combat. No conflict has ever been as easy as our leadership has tried to pursued us it will be. The costs are always higher. The collateral damage is always greater. The lives lost are always much, much more.