Surprising no one, Leon Wieseltier doesn’t like the deal with Iran:
This agreement was designed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If it does not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons—and it seems uncontroversial to suggest that it does not guarantee such an outcome [bold mine-DL]—then it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve. And if it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve, then it is itself not an alternative, is it?
As objections to this deal go, this must be one of the most fatuous that a critic has made so far. James Fallows noted in response to this that there is no agreement that can provide absolute guarantees about this. Indeed, that is the point of having verification measures so that there is a way to confirm that the restrictions that Iran has accepted are being followed. It is in the nature of any negotiated settlement that an agreement holds so long as all parties continue to see compliance as being more to their advantage, so it is always possible that the agreement could fail in its purpose if one or more of the parties decides not to abide by its terms. That is obvious enough, but it is a completely useless criticism to make.
The deal with Iran makes it much more difficult for Iran to acquire the ability to build nuclear weapons, and it makes it much easier for the major powers to learn of it if they try to evade the limits that the deal requires. These are extraordinary restrictions that go beyond what the NPT already requires of Iran, and assuming that these restrictions are not grossly violated they will succeed in keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon for at least fifteen years and probably much longer than that. It doesn’t mean that that the deal has only delayed Iran’s inevitable possession of nuclear weapons. It has made sure that the unlikely development of an Iranian bomb is now much more unlikely than it was just two years ago. There are no guarantees, but there is now a greatly reduced chance of this outcome than there was before the negotiations started.
The core of Wieseltier’s objection is the same fantasy that Iran hawks have been pushing for years, namely the elimination of Iran’s nuclear program in its entirety. He laments that the deal is only “a deferral and a delay,” but that is far more than failed hard-line policies have managed to achieve in more than a decade. The new restrictions are as much as the P5+1 were ever likely to get through negotiations, and it is worth emphasizing that critics of diplomacy with Iran were against making the minimal concessions needed to secure even these restrictions. The hawks insist on an impossible goal and then condemn the significant progress that was achieved through compromise. They do this because they are allergic to making deals with this regime, or because they loathe diplomacy and the compromise it requires, or because they would rather keep the nuclear issue alive to stoke tensions with Iran.
Hawks often like to portray Iran as “hell-bent” on acquiring nuclear weapons, and they have been convinced for decades that Iran is just a year or two away from building them, and yet Iran has not done so in all this time. It seems likely that future Iranian governments would want to refrain from crossing that line once the deal’s provisions expire. They will probably calculate that crossing that line will still be too costly. Critics of the deal also assume that the Iranian leadership decades from now will be eager to make their country an international pariah again after enjoying years of improved trade and better relations with other countries, but they would have strong incentives not to cause a dispute on this issue. Provided that the U.S. and its allies and clients don’t give Iran’s governments new incentives to pursue their own deterrent, the problem can continue to be successfully managed.