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November 25, 2013 9:22 AM The Deal With Iran

By Ed Kilgore

I’d say Fred Kaplan of Slate pretty much summed up the reaction to the Iranian nuclear “first step” deal in non-ideological circles:

Without going into a lot of technical detail (which can be read here), the point is this: The agreement makes it impossible for the Iranians to make any further progress toward making a nuclear weapon in the next six months—and, if the talks break down after that, and the Iranians decide at that point to start building a nuclear arsenal, it will take them much longer to do so.
In exchange for these restraints, the P5+1 nations agree to free up about $6 billion of Iran’s long-frozen foreign assets. This amounts to a very small percentage of the sanctions imposed on Iran’s energy and financial sectors. Meanwhile, all other sanctions will remain in place and continue to be vigorously enforced; the agreement doesn’t affect those sanctions at all. The U.S. Congress does have to agree not to impose additional sanctions in the next six months. If it imposes them anyway, they must know that this agreement—and the international coalition holding the sanctions in place—will collapse. Even this Congress is likely to hold off. If it does go ahead and passes a bill imposing new sanctions, Obama will certainly veto it.
So what’s not to like? According to Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and several American neoconservatives, plenty. In their view, a good agreement must, first, dismantle Iran’s entire nuclear program and, second, ban Iran from enriching uranium to any level. In other words, it must ensure that Iran can never build a nuclear weapon.

Now I think it’s reasonable to cut the Israelis some slack here, since they are the object of violent and unremitting hostility from Tehran, and have their own counter-intimidation game to play. Besides, who expects Bibi Netanyahu to agree with Barack Obama on much of anything? We can just be happy that Bibi’s old friend Mitt Romney, who all but promised to let turn over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East to Netanyahu, isn’t in office now.

Some of the U.S. conservatives freaking out about the “first step” deal are simply parroting Bibi or reflexively opposing the handiwork of the last two Democratic nominees for president. Others won’t be happy with anything other than “regime change,” which is code for a bloody nuclear or land war (or both) killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people and probably alienating the Iranian people for generations to come.

People who fall asleep at night dreaming of bombs falling are not particularly reliable commenters on the efforts of those seeking peaceful solutions. Let’s just hope the War Party’s allies in Congress can keep a lid on it and spare Obama and the country the embarrassment of a presidential veto of measures designed to ensure peace can never break out.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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