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The Nuclear Deal and the Ten Sailors

Dan Drezner’s reviews [1] the story of Iran’s brief detention of 10 U.S. sailors after they had accidentally drifted into Iranian waters, and here’s what he finds:

So, to sum up: Compared to a similar incident in 2007, this was handled much more quickly and with a minimum of fuss. It’s almost as if U.S. diplomacy toward Iran has yielded some benefits or something.

Many opponents of the nuclear deal were quick to declare that this episode was a “humiliation” for the U.S. and proof that the nuclear deal was allowing Iran to misbehave. Sen. Cotton was predictably one of the first out of the gates to use the news as another excuse to attack the deal. Cotton went so far as to declare the detention an “openly hostile action” despite the fact that it occurred in Iranian waters. Sen. Gardner (R-Colorado) suggested that the president delay his State of the Union address. In general, Iran hawks responded to a minor, easily solved problem with a mix of panic and irresponsible alarmism. Drezner credits Rubio with a more responsible reaction, and compared to the others that’s true, but note that he still used this minor episode to denounce the nuclear deal and vow to renege on it. That’s a short-sighted and foolish position for Rubio to hold even if he didn’t set his hair on fire over the brief detention of the sailors, because so far Iran is complying [2] with its commitments under the deal:

An evaluation of the agreement must begin with how it is being implemented. On this front, the JCPOA has exceeded expectations, as the Iranians have moved more quickly than experts expected to dismantle the nuclear program.

In short, Rubio wants to tear up a deal that Iran is abiding by and that has already made significant progress in restricting Iran’s nuclear program. He may have handled the smaller issue well, but on one of the biggest issues of U.S.-Iranian relations Rubio has taken a ridiculously hard-line position.

As Drezner says, all [3] of the facts [4] suggest that the episode was resolved as quickly and peacefully as it was because of the direct channels of communication created by the diplomatic exchanges over the nuclear issue in the last two years. In the absence of the deal and the diplomatic contacts that were created through the negotiating process, it is probable that it would have taken much longer to get the sailors released. This episode reminds us of the value of keeping open diplomatic channels, and that value only increases when it involves regimes with which the U.S. has generally poor and adversarial relations. If the U.S. and Iran had normal diplomatic relations, it is likely that more serious incidents and problems could be resolved in a similar fashion or even headed off in advance. Failing that, it would be folly to throw away the fruits of successful negotiations with Iran, and that is what Iran hawks insisted on in response to this easily-solved problem.

14 Comments (Open | Close)

14 Comments To "The Nuclear Deal and the Ten Sailors"

#1 Comment By John On January 13, 2016 @ 10:14 am

It’s almost as if the ideological commitments of the Republican Party preclude their presidential candidates from making a good decision in this case, or indeed any other where a good decision might upset a certain Las Vegas billionaire.

#2 Comment By balconesfault On January 13, 2016 @ 11:46 am

During the post-speech interviews, a few of the network commentators kept trying to prod Dems last night as to whether the President should have included a mention of the detention in the SOTU. In general, the response was a befuddled “why?”

A number of the Republicans seemed ready and anxious to discuss the topic however, as if it were on par with the taking of the American embassy in 1979.

There’s no evidence even that the Iranians even asked for quid pro quo (release of Iranians detained by the US). Which should shame those Republicans who kept insisting we link the nuclear deal to Iran also releasing a number of Americans imprisoned there.

If they had any shame, that is …

#3 Comment By Ron Beasley On January 13, 2016 @ 12:30 pm

I have thought for some time that Iran was our most logical ally in the region. Do I approve of their policies and actions, NO. Are they worse than Saudi Arabia? Once again the answer is NO. The diplomatic channels opened by the nuclear deal made the quick resolution of this possible. The US needs to establish diplomatic relations with Iran again even if it makes Republican heads explode.

#4 Comment By Patrick On January 13, 2016 @ 12:53 pm

If Ted Cruz were president the Iranians would have issued an apology for putting their water under our ship.

#5 Comment By SF Bay On January 13, 2016 @ 1:16 pm

The sailors have been released. There was no international incident. Are the Republicans still hysterical? This is just more silliness from Republicans trying to take down Obama. As usual the Republicans live in a fact free universe.

#6 Comment By collin On January 13, 2016 @ 1:20 pm

It is almost the conservative movement wanted this footnote episode in history to become something bigger!

#7 Comment By W.E.B. Dupree On January 13, 2016 @ 1:48 pm

I wonder if some of these people are actually kind of disappointed that the sailors have already been released.

#8 Comment By jk On January 13, 2016 @ 2:03 pm

So it seems the US WAS in Iranian waters possibly doing reconnaissance or due to the frictions of everyday operations from failure of navigation and breakdown of machinery or recklessly testing the response of Iran to ensure “freedom of movement.”

Kerry’s statement on the success of negotiation and diplomacy is characteristically being called another “apology tour.”

The cognitive dissonance is deafening in the neocon sphere. I suppose these naval personnel should have stood their ground like the Alamo and fought to the end even though they WERE in Iranian waters but Obummer ordered them to kowtow to his Muslim overlords.

I’m surprised some of the Presidential Candidates didn’t start screaming to nuke Baghdad (just because they don’t what the capital of Iran is).

I’m not being cynical when I write that neocons were praying that these Americans would be tortured and held indefinitely just to prove some political point.

#9 Comment By Intelliwriter On January 13, 2016 @ 9:55 pm

The GOP response is so telling: Party and war profits before country. Iran wants to come out of the dark and instead of shining a light for their passage, the GOP would rather drown them in bullets.

#10 Comment By Huntly On January 14, 2016 @ 1:09 am

Do service members typically carry their passports with them while on duty? Footage I’ve seen about this, could be just old stock, shows someone holding several US passports.

#11 Comment By Winston On January 15, 2016 @ 12:01 am

GOP better keep eye on the increasingly lunatic Saudi government. They will take down the US economy which is help up by the petrodollar Saudis are linchpin of.

I know people with dementia who are not even allowed to drive;and Saudis have a king with the mental disease! Do check out what its symptoms are. Relying on his naive, ambitious son is another result of his mental disease.

#12 Comment By Gazza On January 15, 2016 @ 8:14 am

These GOP idiots would have been secretly thrilled if Iran had executed them Saudi-style by head chopping after a denunciation by a Sharia court. They would have been publicly outraged, but inwardly ecstatic at the idea of a pearl harbor event that they could spin to scupper the nuclear deal and maybe manipulate the public into supporting Cruz-missile strikes…

#13 Comment By Crprod On January 15, 2016 @ 1:53 pm

Diplomacy. It’s for adults only.

#14 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 17, 2016 @ 12:34 am


I would add this observation —

they could escorted them to international waters with but that a the sole incident.

It is not as if they had to drag the ship t port and make a scene.

I remain very aloof about Iranian intentions.