The Iran Deal

Obviously, out of my wheelhouse, but definitely worth commenting upon.  Sure, I’m maybe a little too easily trusting the sources I take cues from, but I’ll take the NYT editorial staff over Krauthammer and friends any day.   I think Drum is right, though, in asserting that the most important sources to listen to (since, honestly, how many of us are actually experts on such matters) are the non-partisan technical experts.  Their conclusion: good deal.

This is the kind of feedback I’ve been waiting for. Do technical experts who actually understand the nuances of the deal language think this is a good agreement? And apparently most of them do.

Conversely, the critics have mostly been focused on the fact that the deal eventually lifts the economic sanctions on Iran that have been in place for the past few years. This will improve the Iranian economy and give them more money to support terrorist groups like Hezbollah and the Houthis.

This is true, of course, but it was the whole point of the negotiations from the start. To oppose it on those grounds is basically to say that we should simply keep the sanctions in place forever. But that’s not even remotely feasible. Sanctions never last forever, especially when they have to be upheld by the entire international community.

Meanwhile, Yglesias sought out the best arguments he could find against the deal, and came away unimpressed:

So I read them. And having read them, it’s clearer than ever: The most prominent arguments against the deal aren’t really arguments at all. The people making them don’tlike the deal, because they don’t like Iran and because the deal has some upside for Iran. That is, of course, the nature of diplomacy. You make deals with adversaries (that’s why you are negotiating), and the adversaries secure an upside through the deal (that’s why you reach agreement).

But hawks don’t want to come out and say they oppose diplomacy in all forms and just want a war. So what you get are irritable mental gestures instead.

And my IR lodestars, Ayers and Saideman, both strongly endorse this take from another IR scholar, David Lake:

Overall, this agreement may not be a perfect agreement, but compared to the likely alternatives, it seems pretty damn attractive – unless one is willing to sustain some pretty extreme assumptions. If opponents are wrong about either of their core assumptions – if Iran cannot be pressed into a “better” agreement or, failing that, a major war and costly war will ensue – we will greatly regret not approving the current agreement. The downside consequences of the opponents being wrong about the next best alternative are huge.

The proponents also make important assumptions about the next best alternative, though they are, in my view, more realistic…

Whether the hopes of the proponents prove true or false, however, the value of the agreement on the table does not depend on the outcome of detente. Rather, the agreement has value in itself in delaying the possible acquisition by Iran of a nuclear weapon by 10-15 years. If the inspections regime is good enough to catch any significant Iranian cheating, the downside to the agreement appears quite small. Rather than crack the coalition by escalating sanctions in the hope of reaching a “perfect” agreement, or fighting another war in the Middle East, the agreement now on the table promises to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon for the foreseeable future. This alone is worth doing.

That’s good enough for me.  And surely a far more valuable take than anything you’ll get from Fox News or GOP politicians.

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