Recently I’ve been rather surprised by the support expressed by students, particularly Republicans, of the Iran nuclear deal in the past week. My colleague Alex Robledo recently wrote, for instance, that “the neoconservative members (read: war hawks) of my party have come out strongly against the deal. Let it be known that these voices do not speak for all Republicans.” In similar fashion, College Democrats chairman Matt Gregory suggestedthat while the deal is not perfect, “the accord’s benefits shine brighter upon examination of the available alternatives to diplomatic compromise.”
With all due respect to my colleagues, I strongly disagree.
I reject the notion that Republican opposition to the Iran Deal is being spearheaded by “war hawks.” Not a single Republican senator has announced his/her support for the deal, suggesting that Republican opposition is not simply limited to a select few thirsty for war. Even moderate members of Congress like Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who has supported the President’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba and conduct negotiations with Iran, have denounced the bill as simply being not good enough. Sen. Flake’s opposition to the deal alone certainly doesn’t make him a war hawk.
No rational person wants to start a war with Iran, and that includes the war hawk Republicans my colleague mentioned in his article. However, this deal does not achieve the goals it aims for, namely preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
While the deal may certainly make it difficult for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, its allowance for Iranian inspectors to monitor and investigate Iranian nuclear facilities is more absurd than anyone could have imagined. I understand that this aside may allow the Iranians to save face, and that the residue from materials needed to build a nuclear weapon are detectable well after their use. Yet, can any responsible congressional representative vote in favor of this proposal? Hardly.
Iran has a history of corruption and a tendency to outright lie to the international community. As recently as 2010, Iran denied the existence of the Qom nuclear facility. Why are my fellow students, and Democratic representatives more broadly, so ready to trust Iran when history shows that it is one of the least trustworthy countries in the world?
Furthermore, a simple measure of ‘which country got what’ shows that this deal is incredibly imbalanced, if not charitable toward Iran. What does the U.S. get from the deal? The ‘assurance’ that Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon (for now, at least). What does Iran get from the deal? The removal of sanctions, increased trade, increased foreign direct investment, decreased U.S. influence in the country, and more autonomy–despite the fact that their leadership has openly declared, on more than several occasions, its contempt for the United States and Israel. This list, not even a complete one, does not seem to be a deal that is favorable toward the United States.
Beyond these diplomatic failures, the deal is not considered a ‘treaty,’ but has instead been defined by President Obama as a ‘non-binding agreement.’ The fact that the President is asking the U.S. to trust Iran to not develop a nuclear weapon through a non-binding agreement is worrisome on its own, particularly because the words ‘non-binding’ do not sound forceful in any regard. This classification as a ‘non-binding agreement,’ even though it is like a treaty in almost every way, shape, and form, removes the Senate from giving its advice and consent as constitutionally mandated in the case of treaties.
So, once again, the President has isolated Congress from the policymaking process. Why do we even have Congress around if, when a bipartisan decision has finally been reached that happens to go against President Obama (something foreign on the Hill), he finds a way to circumvent it? How can anyone, Republican and Democrat alike, support this bill when it has been deliberately manipulated to assure that the people’s representatives cannot vote it down? Any bill that has been this twisted, no matter how good it may be, should be voted down for this reason alone.
The strongest argument, and likely the only argument, in favor of the Iran deal is that although it is not perfect, it is better than any of the alternatives. I do not believe that to be true. As mentioned above, this bill so comprehensively fails to achieve its intended goals that we really are better off renegotiating a new agreement or voting against it. Even the goals it does achieve, like preventing Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb in the short-run, are surrounded by so many caveats and restrictions on the U.S. that it’s less of an agreement than a handout.
Of course, no one considers military action against Iran as their first or most preferable choice. But the Iran deal represents an act of desperation on the part of the Obama administration and Secretary Kerry to finalize any deal with Iran that they can, which has translated into the U.S. giving in to one-too-many concessions and a series of far less-than-perfect terms.
It’s important to note that the Iran nuclear deal’s affects do not end with Iran. Although President Obama’s foreign policy has been characterized by mistakes and weakness (does a red line in Syria ring a bell?), the Iran deal also affects U.S. negotiations with other countries. Most recently, Cuba has steadfastly refused to address its human rights violations, despite the U.S. opening its embassy and offering numerous concessions. What makes this pattern of the U.S. giving concessions and receiving little out of them any different with Iran than with Cuba? Iran is even more hostile to the U.S. than Cuba is, and I do not like those odds. It seems that with every passing international development, the United States loses more and more credibility abroad.
While the intentions of the Iran deal are certainly noble and well founded, its implications set the stage for a dangerous future. Republicans like Sen. Flake would like to support the deal, and those like me truly wish that it could work. A decent deal is better than no deal. But this deal is not a decent deal, and unfortunately, the negotiations have not yielded the results we need.
Until a better deal is crafted, it would be irresponsible to do anything but vote against the Iran Deal. It would be a mistake to equate the necessary concessions in any diplomatic project with the ground we give up by approving the Iran deal.