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How Should Republicans Respond to the Iran Deal?

Jim Antle considers the effect that the deal with Iran will have on the foreign policy debate inside the GOP. He sees a political opportunity for hawks in the party:

The hawks’ op-eds and 2014 attack ads write themselves. Obama, John Kerry, and the mullahs are on one side, Israel and the GOP on the other.

It’s true that the op-eds and attack ads will write themselves, but is the public going to be particularly receptive to this message? Public opinion is on the side of a negotiated deal with Iran, and it seems unlikely that this is going to change if the interim deal leads to a more lasting agreement. Since Iran has made most of the concessions in the interim deal, and the deal includes all the restrictions that could realistically have been achieved, there is not much for hawks to criticize. There may not be much incentive for elected Republicans to endorse the deal right away, but there is also very little advantage in defining themselves as knee-jerk opponents of diplomacy. Republican hawks may seize on the Iran deal as a chance to lock the party into its dead-end attachment to confrontational and aggressive foreign policy, but if the party follows them it will be putting itself once again on the wrong side of public opinion and casting itself once again as a party in search of new wars to fight. Republicans should view the deal with Iran as an opportunity to change their party’s reputation. They can do this by giving diplomacy the chance to succeed, and by opposing when necessary those measures that could undermine future negotiations.

Conservatives should reject what Republican hawks are telling them on Iran, and they should do this mainly because their arguments make no sense. First, the goal of “zero enrichment” is a fantasy, so conservatives should ignore declarations that this is the only acceptable outcome. Iran is never going to agree to those terms. Iran isn’t going to be forced into accepting them, so additional sanctions serve no purpose except to inflict more pain on Iranian civilians. Increased pressure with the goal of toppling the government isn’t going to work. The regime perversely benefits from sanctions, because sanctions deflect blame from the government for the country’s economic problems and sabotage the opposition by impoverishing the middle class. Foreign governments are naturally blamed for the damage that the sanctions do, so giving Iranians more reasons to resent foreign powers certainly isn’t going to turn them against their own government. Finally, “preventive” war is nothing of the kind, since it will almost certainly increase Iran’s interest in acquiring nuclear weapons rather than discourage them.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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