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Beall: A good deal with Iran

BY MIKE BEALL | DECEMBER 02, 2013 5:00 AM

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Coming out of negotiations in Geneva, Iran proved something to the world.  Its leaders are more willing to negotiate with the Obama administration than the Republican Party is the United States. And I don’t know if this is a great sign for the future or not.

With the deal struck last week, the Obama administration has pulled off something that no president has done in a long time: successfully negotiate with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States along with the other P5+1 nations (the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany) came out of meeting in Geneva with a groundbreaking agreement to curb Iran’s ability to create nuclear weapons.   

As a part of the deal (which is not a treaty but a steppingstone to more diplomacy) Iran must halt enrichment of uranium above 5 percent, neutralize its stockpile of nearly 20-percent-enriched uranium, halt progress on its enrichment capacity, stop activities at its Arak reactor, and agree to intrusive new monitoring of its nuclear program. 

For these concessions Iran will be given limited temporary relief from international sanctions. This relief will free about $7 billion of Iran’s frozen assets. This is only a small percentage of the estimated $100 billion that is inaccessible to the Iranian government because of sanctions. 

Many journalists were surprised when Iran accepted the deal. Iran gains very little and has to give up a lot. Even if the Iranian government goes back on the deal or discontinues future talks, the concessions made are enough to seriously set back the Iranian nuclear program and the sanctions being lifted would be reapplied and strengthened. This goes to show that perhaps Iran is not so unreasonable as it is typically portrayed.

This deal is a great step forward, but many in the Republican Party (and even some Democrats) are unhappy with the terms of the agreement. Many of them believe that the deal does not go far enough in immediately dismantling the country’s nuclear capabilities.

But such critics have a skewed view of American diplomacy in an age when the U.S.’s international supremacy is in doubt. Diplomacy is not demanding the other side cave to all your demands. Diplomacy is not threatening the other side into submission.

Diplomacy is making and taking concessions to work toward a sustainable long-term equilibrium.

Unfortunately many congressional leaders are calling for new, harsh sanctions that would violate the terms of the nascent international agreement and cast future talks into doubt. Such saber rattling is counterproductive.

Iran will not listen to threats or bullying, and talk of war or increased sanctions only creates a reason for Iran to continue to develop its nuclear program. Although the United States and Israel are justified in their fears of a nuclear Iran, Iran also has legitimate fears of the United States and Israel.

The U.S. has invaded two neighboring countries in the last decade, and Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons. In both countries, particularly the latter, talk of military intervention abounds.

This has been the first face-to-face diplomatic meeting since 1979, and this is a good sign that a diplomatic strategy has a chance to succeed. But a long-term deal with Iran is possibly only if diplomacy’s bellicose opponents are willing to give it a chance.


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