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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

'Just an arms control agreement'

After starting with allegedly high aspirations for real change in Iran, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin report that the Obama administration is asking that any deal it reaches with Iran be judged as 'just an arms control agreement.'
"The only consideration driving what is part of any comprehensive agreement with Iran is how we can get to a one-year breakout time and cut off the four pathways for Iran to get enough material for a nuclear weapon, period," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. "And if we reach an agreement, that will be the basis upon which people should judge it -- on the technical merits of it, not on anything else."
When asked if the State Department would argue the benefits of any deal in part by saying it would help Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, against his country's hard-liners and therefore promote reforms, Harf said: "This is absolutely ridiculous." 
This is a long way from the grand aspirational sentiments expressed by President Barack Obama back in 2009, when he announced his intention to engage Iran. Obama, speaking on the Persian new year celebration of Nowruz, said he wanted "the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations." 
Back then, many advocates for engagement argued that the nuclear deal could unlock the key to moderating Iran's rogue behavior. 
Meanwhile, Obama shills like Joe Cirincione and Gary Samore are arguing that the lifting of sanctions - which will be the currency with which the West pays for any deal - could itself magically bring about reform. There's no reason to believe that will happen and there are plenty of reasons to believe that it won't.
"A nuclear agreement that lifts sanctions and reduces tensions with Iran will advantage the moderates and make it more likely that in the period of the agreement Iran will become a status quo power and be less interested in developing nuclear weapons," Samore told us.
He acknowledged that there was no guarantee of such changes, but said the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon was greater in the absence of a deal than with one.
This echoes the way Obama argued efforts to ease the embargo on Cuba gave the U.S. more leverage to push for democracy inside the island.
A similar line of thinking was promoted in the 1990s, when the U.S. struck a deal with North Korea to put severe limits on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Of course, Pyongyang only increased its internal repression and nuclear ambitions.
Cirincione insisted that Iran is different than North Korea because it is a more diverse and vibrant society with a reform movement that enjoys some level of public tolerance. He also said that both the hard-liners and the reformers there believe that a nuclear deal with the West could pave the way for greater social and political reforms.
“A nuclear deal is going to be greeted as near-euphoria for the Iranian people because they see it as a beginning of the reforms,” he said. Then he warned: “Just because people go out on the streets and protest, that doesn’t mean good things will happen. I mean, look at Egypt.”
Iran's pro-democracy green movement is today in shambles. Its two leaders -- Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi -- have been under house arrest since 2010, despite promises from Rouhani during his electoral campaign in 2013 to free dissidents.
I read somewhere - I cannot recall where - that there was a disagreement between US and Israeli intelligence over how Iran could be stopped, and Israeli intelligence argued that the only way Iran could be stopped would be if there was real political reform. Now that seems even less likely than ever.

What could go wrong?

Read the whole thing.

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