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The Bad Faith Opposition to the Nuclear Deal

The UAE’s foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayad al Nahyan, complains that the nuclear deal hasn’t fixed all regional problems:

Some may argue that this is an unrealistic aspiration, and that regional security issues never were and never should be included in discussions of the JCPOA and inevitably would sink the accord. The UAE disagrees. Without greater progress on these issues, the agreement is doomed to fail. If we allow Tehran to continue down its current path of aggression, the accord will lose all its value.

Like almost all other critics of the nuclear deal, the Emirati minister won’t be satisfied by any agreement that Iran might actually accept. This makes his objections to the deal little better than whining from the people that lost the argument years ago. He dismisses the success of the nuclear deal in limiting Iran’s nuclear program because it “fails” to do a whole host of other things that were never up for discussion. So long as all parties to the agreement abide by its terms, the agreement will continue doing exactly what it was intended to do, and that is to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful.If that isn’t enough for the deal’s opponents, that just proves that their opposition was never based on the merits of the deal itself.

The minister goes on to say that he wants a new agreement that somehow reduces Iranian support for its proxies, curtails the IRGC’s activities, and restricts Iran’s missile program, but even if a way could be found to do all these things Iran has no reason to agree to any of this and the minister isn’t proposing to give them anything in exchange. Is the UAE prepared to give up its meddling in other countries’ conflicts and to cut off its foreign proxies as part of an agreement with Iran? Of course not. There is nothing to negotiate when one side isn’t prepared to offer anything to the other, and the critics of the nuclear deal already think that Iran has received too much as it is. There is no bargain that can be struck on these other issues when opponents of the nuclear deal are reflexively opposed to compromising with Tehran in the first place.

If we start judging nonproliferation and arms control agreements by the effect they have on the various parties’ other foreign policy decisions, we will quickly find that all of them are “failures” according to the ridiculous and unreasonable standard being applied here. If we judge them fairly on whether they have achieved their intended purpose, we cannot conclude that the JCPOA is anything less than a resounding success. Anyone that argues otherwise is looking for an excuse to blow up the deal or otherwise stoke tensions with Iran.

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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