Iran: Killing the deal — “I told you so” endangers us all

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The US appears likely to cancel the Iran nuclear deal. The appointments of superhawks Mike Pompeo as the new US Secretary of State and John Bolton as national security adviser practically guarantee that. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rolling out documentation of an Iranian nuclear weapons program that was no secret after it was stopped in 2006, is pushing for cancellation of the deal. He’s likely to get what he wants.

Then we’ll hear cheers, shouts of joy, celebrations, parties, a raucous song of victory.

The chorus of that pathetic ballad will be, “I told you so.” The price—missed opportunities and dangerous consequences.

On the day the deal is cancelled, lists of Iranian crimes against humanity, the Mideast, Israel, everything that moves, and everything that doesn’t will be hauled out for everyone to ogle. Endless Facebook posts, gifs, tables, charts, graphs. A comprehensive, convincing, convicting case against bad-guy Iran, justification for cancelling the deal.

If the US manages to scuttle it—and that depends on how Europe, China, and Russia step in or don’t step in to replace the US role—then Iran will indeed resume its work toward nuclear weapons. Soon it will have a nuclear bomb, might even test it. Then the “I told you so” celebrations over the death of the Iran nuclear deal could produce a region-wide war.
They said it was a bad deal, they worked to prove it was a bad deal, and in the end, they torpedoed it—so it must have been a bad deal all along, right?

Wrong.

The Iran nuclear deal had to be a first step toward bringing Iran back into the family of nations, rebuilding its sanctions-decimated economy, weaving it into the international fabric—so that it would have no further incentive to build nuclear weapons, and have something to lose. But none of this was ever attempted.

Critics of the deal, the “failure cheerleaders,” led by Republicans and Netanyahu, rejected the accord even after it was signed. Netanyahu went so far as to address a joint session of the US Congress at that too-late stage, railing against the deal and its prime mover, US President Barack Obama, thereby placing Israel firmly in the Republican camp after decades of bipartisan support—but that’s another issue.

Despite what the critics say about “loopholes,” most of which don’t even exist, the deal is one of the most stringent, limiting, shackling, and downright insulting accords ever signed by a nation that wasn’t just crushingly defeated in a war.

Here is a quote from the accord, from a detailed article I wrote just after it was signed:

Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.

For 15 years, Iran will not engage in producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys, or conducting R&D on plutonium or uranium (or their alloys) metallurgy, or casting, forming, or machining plutonium or uranium metal.

There are pages and pages of such restrictions.

The 10-year, 15-year, and 25-year expiration dates of the accord provide a clear example of two contradictory approaches. Critics say it just postpones Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Supporters say 10 years is an eternity in the Mideast these days, an opportunity to change Iran’s behavior by creating a different set of interests.

It’s not a dream. North and South Korea are ending their decades-long war. Few thought that would ever happen. So can Iran ever mend its relations with the US and Israel? It’s not inconceivable, based on mutual interests, as they had in the ‘70s. Even now, the nuclear accord could still be a good starting point, if we use it correctly.

Am I saying that Iran is a babe in the woods, just waiting for a nice family to join? Of course not. Iran is a source of evil in the Mideast and has been for decades. It is extending its reach across the region, funding terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and threatening Israel.

So what do we do? Either we can encourage Iran’s leaders to replace violence and subterfuge with economic recovery and benefits for their people, recognizing that despite its rhetoric, Iran has a rational regime with an educated middle class. That’s the perspective you can get from actually living in the Mideast, and it’s shared by Israeli experts who cannot be quoted by name.

Or we can blame the accursed accord and Obama, threaten Iran, pick fights, and hope that they’ll do something stupid that can trigger a proper war to “solve the Iran problem once and for all.” That’s the policy in Washington, where Pompeo has openly advocated military action, and Bolton urged Israel to attack Iran.

But as we’ve seen time and again, military action in the Mideast leads only to more and harsher military action.
So that policy may well turn out to be the most dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy in human history. Yet even as the rubble smolders and the mushroom clouds rise, you’ll still be hearing that chorus:

“I told you so.”
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Journalist MARK LAVIE has been reporting on Israel and the Mideast since 1972, covering the Israel-Palestinian conflict from the front lines for CBC Radio and others, and living in Cairo during Arab Spring. His second book, “Why Are We Still Afraid?” is ready for publication.

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