Cutting the Crap

The Iran deal: love it or hate it, it’s here to stay… or so in theory, anyway.


As was stated in a Slate column last week, one doesn’t really need to know exactly what the Iran deal is about to form strong opinions on it. Stupid though that may sound, the implications are anything but: The main arguments — both for and against — really only depend on premises… Huh?

On the administration side, the rationale is pretty clear: this agreement is simply the best that can be achieved at this time, and should pave the way for further changes in the future — i.e. do that for now and hope for better later. Not to be outdone, critics are equally as surefooted, claiming that getting rid of economic sanctions (and the resulting massive cash flow) will necessarily yield to an increase of Iranian support for its own particular, international brand of fundamentalism. In addition, it’s been howled in some circles that the deal’s time frame is so short the regime really has every incentive to cheat on it (the whole nuclear weapon in 10 years thing).

The problem here, ladies and gentlemen, is that both sides are technically right. On the one hand, continuing sanctions would’ve been risking the return of hardliners into Tehran’s government, whereas intervention was a rather risky proposition… to say the least. On the other hand, yes: Iran is in fact the main sponsor of a whole faction of enlightened criminals running proxy wars in a number of countries, and there’s no reason to think its ongoing quest for regional supremacy is in any way diminished.

Yet, for all that, the place where this deal can be found to be most lacking is entirely different, and in fact bears uncanny resemblance to some of post-9/11 America’s greatest failures: an utter lack of real long-term planning. Sure, in the short-term the agreement is a step up, but the developments its supporters assure us will necessarily ensue don’t seem to stem from anything more than fantasy. This lack of long-term thinking has actually been a staple of the country’s foreign policing for a little while now, so I suppose one only has himself to blame for thinking things could be any different. But really, after a few years of global wait-and-see (a strategy which includes drone strikes by the way — as inconclusive a form of action as can ever be) you would think some sort of overarching plan could be elaborated… but no! The bottom line is always found to be the quiet sponsoring of barely loyal, autocratic regimes, or unilateral military intervention. What do both of these cock-ups have in common? Well… most tragically, they seem to forget that the countries in question often have democratic forces of their own. It is worth mentioning that the only recent case where an approach towards them has been tried (along with limited intervention, it must be said) was a success.

On this subject, and despite the limitations, conservative academic and professional trophy-husband Niall Ferguson does manage to make a worthwhile point, in that the agreement is itself barely more than a wait-and-see: it’s really hoping power-relations will change by themselves in the near-future. Unfortunately, such an argument can be nothing but flawed — the realist objective it aims to attain, a balance of power, is unstable by definition. What sort of lasting peace was ever achieved through it?

More than that, the choice between deal and war, central to Obama’s case, is simply a false one… and on either side, at that: Not only does it fail to guarantee there will be no near-future opposition, but military action was also always the least plausible (let alone possible) prospect in counteracting the Iranian threat — and thankfully so.

The key here is to understand that there is already a devastating war being played out in the region, and that supporting one extreme against the other in the hopes of fomenting some sort of equilibrium remains unrealistic, let alone morally wrong. Make no mistake, giving this regime a lifeline after successfully weakening it through sanctions also runs the risk of seriously hurting any hope of democratic reform, no matter the short-term gains. Sure, the future remains uncertain, and the best possible outcome — internal democratic transition — could still miraculously come on its own, but evidence (and common sense) seems to point to the contrary; it all just reeks of wishful thinking.

In a clusterfuck of the quality currently shaking the Middle-East, it should become clear that the only viable long-term approach must be based around some form of moral standpoint; an argument made only stronger by the amount of responsibility that can currently be attributed to the US. Playing alliances around is simply asking for trouble. Take a look at Turkey, which recently joined the fight against ISIS and used the opportunity to bomb Kurdish separatist forces in Syria. Supporting such actions demolishes any form of credibility… a feat the US routinely accomplishes with too many countries.

What’s more, can anyone now doubt that timely help — that is, a few years ago — sent towards the Syrian opposition would’ve alleviated the current situation? These were our allies, if you remember, and the mistake of allowing them to fall prey to doubt and fanaticism still haunts us to this day.

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