Saturday, April 4, 2015

Your Move, Congress


The deal struck between the United States and it allies with Iran is anything but perfect. But on the whole it's a good one; in fact, it's a little better than some thought was possible. Here is a list of what's in the agreement.

  • The Arak reactor would be converted so it would no longer produce weapons-grade plutonium.
  • The Fordow facility would be restricted to doing research only with no fission material.
  • Natant would be the only facility that would be allowed to contain uranium-enriching centrifuges.
  • Speaking of centrifuges, Iran would have to reduce its number from 19,000 to 6,104, and only 5,060 of them would be able to enrich uranium for 10 years.
  • Iran would have to reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms.
  • Iran would be limited to a 3.67 percent enrichment for 15 years; roughly 87 percent less than that needed for weapons grade uranium.
  • All Iran's nuclear facilities, including its centrifuge storage facilities, would be subject to inspections by the Atomic Energy Agency.
  • Not all the sanctions would be lifted; the U.S. would still keep in place some of its sanctions due to Iran's role as a sponsor of terror.
  • If Iran is caught cheating on any part of the agreement, all sanctions would be fully reinstated.

The Obama Administration, which has taken a lot of heat over the last few years over its handling of the rise of ISIS, should be commended for this deal. Yes, it's only a framework, but it represents the best path forward to ensuring Iran doesn't develop a nuclear bomb.

And yet Republicans and, sadly, some Democrats are taking aim at the agreement because it doesn't go far enough. They want all Iran's centrifuges gone and all its nuclear facilities dismantled. Some within the neocon lot have gone so far as to insist that the only solution is regime change.

The impasse is setting up a showdown between the Administration and Congress. Republican Senator Bob Corker has introduced a bill that if passed would give the Senate final approval on the Iran deal. The only thing standing in its way are a group of Democrats who are on the fence as to the merits of the deal. If Corker can convince six of them to join the other 54 Republicans, the bill will pass and then would head to the House where it will undoubtedly pass. And if that happens, the best chance to avert a military confrontation with Iran will go up in smoke.

Make no mistake about it, if this deal is rejected by the Congress, any hope of getting Iran back to the table is gone. The international coalition that brokered this deal will collapse. Sanctions will be off the table as Russia and China will be more than willing to trade with Iran. And, more importantly, Iran will now have a clear path to develop the nuclear bomb that everyone agrees is a nonstarter.

And if the neocons get their way and force a military confrontation, God help us. We will be looking at the clusterfuck of all clusterfucks. If you thought Iraq was a disaster, a war with Iran would make that look like a remake of the movie Stripes. Even with sanctions in place, Iran was still the preeminent military power in the Middle East. Its army is considerably larger and better trained than Saddam Hussein's was. The military engagement alone could take years and then there is the real hard part: instilling a functioning government to run the joint. If Iraq is any indicator, we will likely be there decades at a cost of trillions of dollars.

Yes, I get it. Iran is hardly a flourishing democracy. It's a repressive totalitarian regime that oppresses its citizens, jails its dissenters and supplies weapons to Israel's enemies. I get all that. But what a lot of people don't get is that the Mullahs who currently run Iran and are principally responsible for that oppression and the terror it spreads are all in their 70s and 80s. Within the country are the seeds of reform. The median age of its citizens is 28, among the youngest in the world. Most of the population is far more moderate than many give it credit for. A military confrontation would have the devastating consequence of driving those moderates right into waiting arms of the Mullahs. Far from ushering in a new wave of democratization, a war with Iran would plunge it further down the path of tyranny and chaos.

And then there's ISIS. Like it or not, Iran is our ally against what is the most radical and lethal threat in the Middle East. Without Iran's military intervention, ISIS most assuredly would've seized most if not all of Iraq. And for those who say that having Iran in Iraq poses other potential and far larger existential threats in the region, you can blame the Bush Administration. Its decision to invade Iraq and topple the Hussein regime, was the primary reason Iran became such a major player in the Middle East in the first place.

The framework is in place; the next move belongs to Congress. History awaits.

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