Tuesday, July 14, 2015

compared to what?

The United States and several other nations have concluded an agreement -- called a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- with Iran intended to limit the Islamic Republic's ability to develop nuclear weapons. I'm eager to see further analyses of the details, but I agree with Fred Kaplan that it looks as if there are substantial and valuable provisions to assure compliance with its restraints. It's interesting to me that policymakers and the media are all calling the agreement a "deal," for that signifies that the parties have traded various concessions so that each can feel that the final result satisfies some of its important interests and concerns.

The "deal" doesn't cover all aspects of Iran's behaviors that bother America. Those matters, such as Iran's support for terrorist groups, were not part of the negotiation. Nor does the agreement prevent Iran from becoming more powerful economically or more influential in its region. That's what the Israelis and the Saudis are concerned about, even if Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons.

For those who want a comprehensive measure that limits Iran's economic and military potential across the board, this agreement is insufficient. But compared to an Iran unconstrained on nuclear matters, this is a huge accomplishment. No "deal" is ever a perfect agreement, but this one is far better than the only other alternative to prevent an Iranian bomb -- military action that could trigger a regional war and make a bomb more likely in the future.

Congress now has a role to play, as I believe it should. It gets the chance to vote to approve the deal or, more likely, to disapprove it. But the president can veto a disapproval measure and then lift many of the current sanctions by executive authority. I hope that Congress delves into the details before jumping to conclusions, even if members eventually want to vote for disapproval.  I also hope that the administration looks for ways, perhaps even a security agreement with Israel, to help reassure Israelis and their American friends that the United States will not slacken in its defense of Israel.