Given the unfolding mayhem that is currently devouring the Middle East, yesterday’s framework agreement over Iran’s nuclear program is a positive development that should be cautiously celebrated. Ordinary Iranians have special reason to celebrate, because they are the ones, as always, who have borne the brunt of sanctions that should never have been imposed in the first place, to the point when Iran is not even able to repair its fleet of passenger planes.
It also means that the prospect of another major war in the Middle East that at one point seemed almost inevitable has been averted, at least for now. That is good news for the Iranians who would have died in large numbers had a US-led coalition struck at Iran’s nuclear facilities. It’s also good news for the rest of the region, because air strikes on Iran would almost certainly have exacerbated a wider conflagration that had the potential to become unstoppable.
Had the talks collapsed, then those who have been virtually baying for Iran to be bombed for more than ten years would have been able to argue that war was now the only option, a case that some of them were already making long before negotiations even began. Call me a lily-livered, appeasing, pinko pacifist lacking in moral backbone, but the spectre of a ‘nuclear Iran’ never bothered me that much.
For one thing, it’s never been proven that Iran even had these intentions. And even if it had nuclear weapons, I fail to see why that would make the world any more or less dangerous than a world in which Israel, Pakistan – or Britain and the United States – already has them. I’m all for nuclear non-proliferation, but that doesn’t mean those countries who already have the bomb can impose sanctions on the countries that might or might not have it just because they happen to be their enemies – and ignore the countries that also have the bomb just because they happen to be their friends.
I always suspected that the ‘don’t let Iran get the bomb’ alarm – and the sanctions that accompanied it – had the same purpose as the previous manufactured panic about Iraq’s WMD ie. to make the Iranians an offer they had to refuse in order to justify military action and regime change.
The Bush/Cheney clique may well have wanted that, but the US failure to achieve its aims in post-Saddam Iraq has made their successors more cautious about getting into wars without clear goals or endpoints, and that is one reason why Obama has pursued diplomacy.
Of course this caution may be only temporary. Congress may try to undermine or unravel the deal, using some of the conditions that John McCain raised yesterday. But even ‘bomb, bomb, bomb,bomb Iran’ McCain presented these objections as an attempt to ensure a ‘good agreement.’ He and his fellow troglodyte conservatives would undoubtedly prefer no agreement at all, but the onus is now on them – and the hawkish Democrats who are not very far apart from them – to convince their constituents why the war they want so much is necessary when diplomacy appears to be working.
Some of them will definitely try to do this, such as Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who has promised to work ‘to protect Americans from this very dangerous proposal.’ But many Americans may conclude that they need protecting from men like Tom Cotton. In the months leading up to a definitive agreement in June we can expect to hear a lot of talk about Munich, Neville Chamberlain and Obama’s lack of ‘moral clarity’.
Much of this will come from Binyamin Netanyahu, a politician who most Republicans have far more respect for than they do for their own president. Netanyahu, unsurprisingly has condemned the deal as a ‘threat to Israel’s existence.’ Like so much that comes out of his mouth, this is an unadulterated, unseasoned lie. Even if Iran acquired nuclear weapons – the idea that it would have used them to attack Israel and condemn itself to nuclear annihilation is a ridiculous fantasy, that only makes sense if you regard Iran, as Netanyahu and so many Republicans do, as an insane ‘ideological’ state intent on nuclear martyrdom just for the hell (heaven) of it.
Netanyahu insisted that the deal would ‘legitimise Iran’s nuclear programme, bolster Iran’s economy and increase Iran’s aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond. It would increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war.’
Lies once again. The man just can’t help himself. Netanyahu has been actively seeking a war with Iran for years, regardless of how horrific it might be, and he has been trying to get the US to wage it for him. Now, for the time being at least, he has been stymied, and reduced to citing a pledge supposedly made by Mohammed Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Basij militia to ‘wipe Israel off the map.’
Well Naqdi can say what he likes, but Netanyahu knows – and has always known – that Iran cannot do any such thing, and wild statements like this do not prove that its leadership wants to. So we should be grateful that the likes of Netanyahu, Tom Cotton, McCain and John Bolton have been ignored, and that they must now withdraw into their intellectual caves to beat their hairy chests and gnaw on red meat and growl at each other.
Let them growl. Let them fret. Let them choke on their own bile and shake their war tambourines. But the rest of us should breathe a sigh of relief that something like common sense has prevailed. Because the Middle East does not need any more wars than it already has, and the world doesn’t need them either.