Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Iran deal and Democratic foreign policy

The Obama administration's deal with Iran looks excellent. Iran gets relief from international economic sanctions in exchange for sharply limiting its ability to make a nuclear weapon. It has to give up most of its uranium-enriching centrifuges, including the newer and better ones. It's forbidden from enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels, and has to give up 97% of the enriched uranium it has now.

After these concessions, the fastest Iran could make a nuclear warhead if it went all-out will grow from three months to a year. And that's if Iran did so and everything worked out, both of which are significant assumptions. Nuclear nonproliferation expert Aaron Stein says, "The intention of this agreement is to take the weapons option off the table for the next 25 years, and the agreement does that." Nancy Pelosi has pledged Democratic support for the deal in the House, and it looks certain to pass.

Republicans aren't happy. Scott Walker (whom I see as the most likely Republican nominee, just ahead of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio) pledges to "terminate the bad deal with Iran on the very first day in office, put in place crippling sanctions and convince our allies to do the same", and muses about ordering airstrikes on his first day in office. The National Review is putting up photos of Neville Chamberlain and decrying appeasement, as if Iran were the country in these negotiations that had carried out the most recent invasion in the region. Fortunately, restarting international sanctions against Iran is going to be really hard for a future president -- Walker isn't going to have an easy time getting China and Russia to sign on. But the noises he and the other Republicans are making, in line with John McCain singing "Bomb Bomb Iran" as a parody of "Barbara Ann" eight years ago, tell you a lot about how they can be expected to approach similar foreign policy issues in the future.

This is one of my favorite aspects of Democratic foreign policy, and foreign policy as practiced by sensible people everywhere: a recognition that international agreements can help us avoid negative-sum conflicts and promote positive-sum cooperation. Meanwhile, it's no surprise that a Republican party known for its negative attitudes towards ethnic minorities would approach foreigners of other races with suspicion and hostility that often leads to massive wars. Agreements like this are the path to a more peaceful world, and anyone who wants peace has reason to hope Democrats win elections.