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Tag Archives: Iran
Living in a swing state, the local coverage of national news events tends to get comments from both sides of the aisle. Yesterday’s opening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba was one of those events that placed the approaches of the two major parties to foreign policy in crystal clear perspective.
The Republicans were, of course, outraged that we would re-open our embassy in Cuba before they have taken solid steps toward democracy (ignoring the fact that we have embassies in dictatorships around the world). To them, normal diplomatic relations and normal trade relations are a stick and carrot to use to coerce other countries around to our point of view (with military options always on the table for the worst offenders). Change only comes in response to persistent U.S. efforts to force change or the other side cracking under economic pressure.
The Democrats, on the other hand, note that fifty years of sanctions and pretending that the Cuban government is not a “legitimate” government have not helped. While there is no need to ignore the problems in Cuba, a U.S. presence in Cuba (beyond our continued lease on Guantanamo Bay which is if anything an offense to the average Cuban) gives us a greater opportunity to interact with all Cubans. Cutting off diplomatic ties and closing embassies is not a tool to be used as a sanction (except in the most extreme circumstances), but rather is a security measure for our diplomats (i.e. why we still have not gone back to Iran). Similarly, economic sanctions is a tool to be used to respond at very precisely calibrated levels to specific violations of human rights. Engagement is what leads to change.
As Congress heads out of Washington for a month of getting back in touch with their constituents and “educational” travel, the list of unresolved issues is (as always) extremely long. How much of these issues Congress will manage to handle in September and October (and maybe November and December) is anybody’s guess. (Mine is not many). Some of these issues are more significant and may become part of the upcoming Republican Debates. I would like to focus on two: the Highway Bill and Iran.
Back in April, I did a post on the Iran Negotiations. Most of what I said then is even more true now that there is a deal. Iran has a right under international law to have a civilian nuclear power program. From the international communities perspective, the issue is what procedures need to be in place to guarantee that Iran does not use their civilian program to develop nuclear weapons. Previously, the U.S. was able to convince the rest of the world that Iran was not willing to give such assurances and the rest of the leading nations went along with the U.S. in imposing sanctions. The rest of the world (with the exception of those nations most at risk) view the current agreement as adequate. (For obvious reasons, the nations most at risk view any lifting as sanctions as bad because — even if Iran does not pursue nuclear weapons — the lifting of sanctions will allow Iran to devote more resources to other portions of their military.) If the U.S. decides to kill the deal, it is unclear what would happen next. How much of the agreement will the rest of the world insist that Iran comply with in exchange for lifting the sanctions if the U.S. is not part of the regime for enforcing the agreement.
At the Republican debate, it is unlikely that we will get any serious discussion of how the rest of the world would react if we walk away from the deal (or even the fact that Iran has the right to a civilian nuclear power industry). Instead, the entire field (with the possible exception of Rand Paul) will say that the deal is not good enough, Some of them may imply that no deal would be good enough. Others will simply say the deal is bad without suggesting any additional terms that would satisfy them. None of them will acknowledge the role of the rest of the world in keeping Iran in check and that this agreement is a multilateral agreement.
One of the big debates in Washington for the past several months have been the on-going negotiations with Iran. The neo-cons in the Republican Party oppose any deal and have managed to get the Administration to concede that any agreement with Iran will be submitted to Congress. The problem with this discussion on the news and in D.C. is the framing of this issue as a dispute between Iran on one side and the United States and Israel on the other side. This framing is completely false. While the rest of the world is willing to let the United States take the lead in negotiations, the negotiations are a global issue and that fact is key to understanding what options are on the table.
There are two basic facts underlying this dispute. First, the basic issue is a question of international law — the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and related documents. Either Iran is sufficiently complying with those terms or it isn’t. The second issue is that most of the major powers have imposed some degree of sanctions on Iran. Keeping pressure on Iran requires that everybody stays on board.