GOP Opposition to the Nuclear Deal
Jacob Heilbrunn warns the GOP against rejecting the nuclear deal:
It would be a profound mistake for the GOP to conclude that it can profit politically by bashing the deal during the 2016 presidential campaign. It won’t. Instead, the party would seem a fortiori to be stuck in even more of a time warp.
Republicans in Congress are eager to make this mistake. Bob Corker’s reaction to the announcement of the nuclear deal was typical of the Republican responses:
“I begin with skepticism because two years ago we had a roguish country with a boot on its neck and we went from dismantling their [nuclear] program to managing their proliferation [bold mine-DL],” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) told reporters Tuesday.
Corker’s statement is revealing, but not in the way he intends. It is deliberately misleading, since he claims that the U.S. was “dismantling” Iran’s nuclear program at some point in the past. On the contrary, Iran’s nuclear program continued to advance while it had “a boot on its neck,” and it was only with the prospect of ending that pressure that Iran was willing to accept limits on its program. The sanctions route has been a massive and costly detour, and the U.S. could have achieved a much better result ten years ago if it had been willing to accept a compromise that permitted some Iranian enrichment back then, so it takes some gall for Iran hawks to moan about a result that their preferred “tough” approach helped create. The goal of “dismantling” the program was always fantastical, since it was something the U.S. was never going to be able to compel Iran to do, and that goal that had to be cast aside if any lasting and verifiable agreement could be reached. Corker’s complaint is that the U.S. went from demanding the impossible and getting nothing to gaining significant concessions that make it much less likely that Iran will produce nuclear weapons. Not only does this rejectionism make Republicans seem stuck in the past, but it also tells the world that their judgment on foreign policy is so hopelessly blinkered that they can’t even recognize a good outcome for the U.S. when they see one.
Opposition to this deal from Republican hawks is remarkable but not very surprising. The deal appears to achieve something that they have been insisting on for years, namely the prevention of an Iranian nuclear weapon, and furthermore it has done so at no real cost to the U.S. or its allies. The only things that the U.S. “gives” up are the punitive measures it has been imposing on Iran over the nuclear issue, so the price for this deal for the U.S. and its allies is extraordinarily low. In exchange, the P5+1 has received extensive concessions from Iran that had not been granted before. The deal serves the cause of nonproliferation, it eliminates one of the major sources of tension in the region, and it has broad international backing from all major powers. The possibility of armed conflict with Iran has receded, and so it is that much less likely that the U.S. will have to pay the price of another avoidable and unnecessary war in the region. These are all things that Americans should be pleased to see regardless of their political leanings. The conclusion of the negotiations with Iran is a success that can and should be welcomed by everyone interested in international peace and security. The fact that most elected Republicans are bitterly opposed to the deal that those negotiations produced reflects very poorly on them and on the kind of foreign policy they want for the U.S.