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Iran: We Need to Talk

Nuclear negotiations with Iran have been extended, but the incoming Republican Senate majority isn’t enthusiastic about them.

“We’re definitely getting played by the Iranians,” says Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, a leading proponent of sanctions.

“Extending talks with Iran won’t achieve the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free Iran,” concurs Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The negotiations have been “much waste of time,” according to another conservative observer, since “the chief negotiator was not to be trusted.”


Actually, this last quote comes from a hard-line Iranian newspaper. Despite the well-worn talking point that diplomacy plays into the hands of the ayatollahs and the mullahs, Iranian hard-liners are as skeptical of talking as John McCain.

“You cannot trust the Great Satan,” the Iranian army deputy chief of staff has been quoted as saying. “The Great Satan promises but does not deliver.”

Diplomacy will be deeply unsatisfying for American policymakers expecting zero uranium enrichment or Iranians who want zero Western sanctions. But support for this course doesn’t require any undue faith in either Tehran’s intentions or the Obama administration’s competence.

After the Iraq War, invading and occupying Iran to shut down any nuclear program is out. Our viable options beyond blithely accepting Iranian assurances it is not building a bomb are limited.

The West can work to prevent an Iranian bomb through aggressive and intrusive international inspections. Or we can hope some combination of bombing and sanctions will either persuade Tehran to abandon any nuclear ambitions or cause the Iranian people to overthrow their government.

Senate hawks argue that bombing Iranian nuclear sites could set the nuclear program back further than the interim deal. But few argue U.S. or Israeli strikes could end it permanently.

Bombing would not only delay Iranian nukes at a greater human cost, it would risk rallying young, reformist segments of the population behind the ayatollahs. It would harden Iranian support for the nuclear program not just as a matter of national pride but as a guarantee of the government’s survival.

Over time, our intelligence about where the nuclear sites are would deteriorate relative to what we would learn through inspections. And the idea that sanctions and bombings will produce a pro-American response from the Iranian populace simply flies in the face of human nature.

A sanctions regime without strong international support may make Senate cosponsors feel good about themselves, but it won’t do much to influence Iranian behavior. Just ask the Cubans, whose communist tyranny has outlived the Soviet Union by a quarter-century, about the embargo.

Is an Iranian nuclear deal guaranteed to work? No. Senate Republicans point to the failure of the 1994 pact with North Korea, negotiated by the Clinton administration with the help of Jimmy Carter (making it a perfect symbol of disaster for conservatives) as an example of what could go wrong.

But this example also illustrates the limits of the more hawkish alternatives. Absent some unacceptable level of aggression by North Korea, who really counsels war as the solution?

The Republican congressional majorities of the 1990s didn’t like the North Korean framework either. But the actual policies they were free to contemplate fell short of their rhetoric about overthrowing a rogue regime.

Many Republicans sense that their options aren’t much better with Iran today. That’s why a joint letter from the incoming Republican senators, whose foreign-policy views are on average more Tom Cotton than Rand Paul, asks for “comprehensive inspections of suspected nuclear development sites” and is silent on military force.

Inspections are not perfect, but their track record is preferable to other options.

After more than a decade of U.S. war in the region, is Iran weaker or stronger? How about militants like the Islamic State or jihadists in post-regime-change Libya? Does international law prevail, or the law of unintended consequences?

To ask these questions is to answer them. Perhaps this time it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war.

It may be possible to avoid both an Iranian bomb and war with Iran. It’s certainly possible to end up with both a war and a bomb.

W. James Antle III is editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation and author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? [1]

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "Iran: We Need to Talk"

#1 Comment By tz On December 1, 2014 @ 8:49 am

We, or at least W killed the NK nuclear deal. We were sending oil to NK as part of that, and when W cut it off, reneging on the agreement, they resumed.

I’m not sure why the USA thinks it can unilaterally break or change every agreement, treaty, commitment, and not expect a reaction.

What if we didn’t expand NATO to Russia’s borders like we promised?

Now, no country has any reason to believe us.

#2 Comment By Mario On December 1, 2014 @ 11:28 am

This entire article is filled with false propositions, one would not know where to start.
The Iranian Nuclear ambition is not tied to one regime, but rather ingrained in the DNA of the Iranian nation.
The most Iran will agree to, is to delay its nuclear program in order to win regional concessions and to extend its influence among its neighbours.
You want to stop Iran from building nuclear weapon, give it the Iraqi treatment, and the nation of Iran will break apart along its ethnic fault lines

#3 Comment By Neil On December 1, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

There is no reason to think Iran wants nuclear weapons, and the best available intelligence assessment is that it does not:

#4 Comment By Tom On December 1, 2014 @ 6:03 pm

This is a joke, you have all the puppets playing their roles, yet you don’t discuss the puppet masters pulling the strings. It is now beyond obvious that our government works for special interest, whether that be wall Street, Gun Lobby…and when it comes to all things Middle East, the ONLY player in town is Israel AIPAC, AEI, ADL). So to have such a discussion and not talk about the power of the Israeli lobbies (plural) on this event and on “our representatives” I believe to be a exercise in futility and borders on disingenuous.

#5 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On December 1, 2014 @ 6:21 pm

It seems to me that our position as a constructive actor in Middle East is fatally undermined by our associating with Israel, the first power to go nuclear in that region.

What is the point of demanding the Iranians jump through hoops in order to show they won’t do what our “ally” already does?

A coherent course of action would be to demand the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the region, including Israel’s. This won’t happen now and it will be even more out of the question when the new Republican Congress meets.

I suspect Iran will join North Korea as an impoverished nuclear state until the overall political/social situation evolves. Nuclear weapons systems are expensive and tiring to maintain. Eventually, the rule of the Mullas will soften or fall. At that point we can hope that the Iranians will concentrate on commerce while ignoring the Israeli fixation on weaponry.

#6 Comment By heartright On December 1, 2014 @ 6:40 pm

Neil says:
December 1, 2014 at 5:16 pm

There is no reason to think Iran wants nuclear weapons, and the best available intelligence assessment is that it does not:

IN this case, ‘does not’ can cover a shade of meanings.
There is a vast difference between deciding Iran deciding that it does not want a nuclear weapon – full spot,
and Iran making no decision one way or the other, treating it as a bridge to be crossed when and if their programme – arguably low-level – gets to a stage where the question might become practical.

The consensus view according to the article linked to leaned towards the second, and not the first interpretation.

Having said that, there is no immediate threat. There is a long term threat, but we have plenty of time to talk with Iran, peacefully, and without blistering hurry, and without escalations.

#7 Comment By MKhattib On December 1, 2014 @ 10:36 pm

Iran will continue to stonewall international inspectors. It won’t answer questions about its past nuclear research, nor accept tight restrictions on the uranium-enriching centrifuges that are key to making a bomb. Those aren’t signs of a good-faith effort to reach a future agreement. Allowing Iran to maintain the infrastructure for nuclear weapons and allow it to receive a massive cash infusion with the lifting of economic sanctions without any concurrent change in governance or human rights improvements would prove to as disastrous as Neville Chamberlain’s declaration after Munich of “peace in our time.”

#8 Comment By Alex Everett On December 1, 2014 @ 11:08 pm

It really goes without saying that all sanctions really do is make the targeted government stronger and make a war more likely and on top of that hurt many innocent people. Just look at what happened in Iraq. If we bomb and invade Iran it would be devastating both militarily and economically. Iran signed the NPT while Israel didn’t… you won’t see that in the Rupert Murdoch owned Neocon media like the WSJ, Fox, or the Weekly Standard. Where would we be without great patriots who have warned us like Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and Pat Buchanan.

#9 Comment By IranMan On December 2, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

“Iran will continue to stonewall international inspectors.”

The comments are certainly coming straight from the Saudi/Israeli talking points.

The published facts are the IAEA, the UN, and all responsible parties have made it very clear Iran has allowed IAEA inspection to go on unabated.