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The Brain-Dead Maximalism of Hard-liners

The Bloomberg editors urge Trump not to give up on brain-dead maximalism with Iran:

Rather than push for an extended sunset, Trump should hold out for a complete termination of Iran’s nuclear activities and an end to its other threatening behavior — such as its ballistic-missile program and its support for terrorist groups across the Middle East — in exchange for readmission into the world economy.

This chance may never come again.

Bloomberg’s latest advice to Trump on Iran is terrible as usual, but it is a useful window into how anti-Iran hard-liners see things. They see the next year as their best chance to push for their maximalist demands, and they fear the possibility that Trump might settle for something short of their absurd wish list. If Trump does what they want and “holds out” until Iran capitulates, he will be waiting a long time. He has nothing to show for his policy except increased tensions and impoverished and dying Iranians, and this would guarantee more of the same. The funny thing is that the “extended sunset” they deride is already an unrealistic goal, and they insist that the president pursue a much more ambitious set of goals that have absolutely no chance of being reached. As always, hard-liners ignore the agency and interests of the other government, and they assume that it is simply a matter of willpower to force them to yield.

The Bloomberg editorial is ridiculous in many ways, but just one more example will suffice. At one point it says, “Nor is there any doubt that Iran wants nuclear weapons.” Perhaps ideologues and fanatics have no doubt about this, but it isn’t true. If Iran wanted nuclear weapons, they could have pursued and acquired them by now. They gave up that pursuit and agreed to the most stringent nonproliferation agreement ever negotiated to prove that they wouldn’t seek these weapons, but the Trump administration chose to punish them for their cooperation. Iran has not done any of the things that actual rogue nuclear weapons states have done. They have not left the Non-Proliferation Treaty. On the contrary, they have agreed to abide by the Additional Protocol that has even stricter standards. They are not enriching uranium to levels needed to make nuclear weapons. They certainly haven’t built or tested any weapons.

Iran has jumped through numerous hoops to demonstrate that their nuclear program is and will continue to be peaceful, and their compliance has been verified more than a dozen times, but fanatics here and in Israel refuse to take yes for an answer. That is because hard-liners aren’t really concerned about proliferation risk, but seek to use the nuclear issue as fodder to justify punitive measures against Iran without end. They don’t want to resolve the crisis with Iran, but rather hope to make it permanent by setting goals that can’t possibly be reached and insisting that sanctions remain in place forever.

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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