President Obama and his Administration are announcing a breakthrough in dealing with Iran on the matter of nuclear proliferation. The media is reporting the obvious condemnation from the Republicans, the Republican wanna-be presidential candidates, and the incessant one-note whining of Israel’s PM. In contrast, Secretary of State Kerry and others in the Administration are floating hyperbolic self-congratulations over their own hard work and stellar performance.
Most of what I heard yesterday by 7:00 PM indicated the “details” of any agreement would not be worked out for 6 months or more but the “framework” was pretty good as frameworks go. Then again, the Kyoto Protocols and the SALT II talks were frameworks of international agreement too and whether they did good or ill remains unresolved in minds of many. I suspect most frameworks are built on compromise and whatever they yield is just about as satisfying.
For the liberal world, you have to start somewhere and if a framework gets you started in the correct direction, it is better than creeping toward greater conflict. To the conservative world, this agreement is worse than Chamberlain’s “appeasement” of the National Socialist Party and the first step along the slippery slope toward mutually assured bloodshed.
So have we staved off disaster, or have we hastened it?
As a layman, I believe this agreement-in-principle is a step toward something better than the status quo for both America and Iran. I also don’t think Israel’s concerns are identical with those of the United States, so I am not persuaded by Mr. Netanyahu’s pandering. President Obama’s foreign policy credentials were never good, and they were only made worse by signing on H Clinton and her advisors. It seems to me the continuation of “triangulating” is the only game either of them know and are modestly competent at executing. I also think it is a bad way to go (although I am no foreign policy whiz either); however, in this case, I believe they have made a marginally good step forward.
The thing that I wonder about is how we in America can be so positive Iran poses a nuclear threat when we were so totally wrong about the threat of Iraq? And by the same token, what evidence do we have that Israel is any less threatening when we do know they are, in fact, a nuclear power?
Another criticism voiced in the news is the paradox of our choosing both sides of the Sunni-Shia religious divide to fight ISIL. I am not sure what to make of this critique. Why? I recently finished reading Lawrence in Arabia (by Scott Anderson). If you want paradox and triangulation, read this book. The Middle-east was a broken place hundreds if not thousands of years before now—the open sore of history and of humanity. Anderson’s book walks the reader through the 20th Century part and delivers us to the doorstep of Israel’s emergence, American patronage, and Sunni-Shia rivalry (only this time with automatic weapons). After reading this book, I am bound to think the best anybody can hope for in the Middle-east is the creation of comprehensive scab over the whole of it. It is not a boil to be lanced. That has happened many time over with the effect being more of poison ivy than relief. It is not an infection that has an artificial cure, an antibiotic that can injected from the outside. And the tissue around this sore is too delicate to cauterize with atomic bombs. But I submit that Middle-east is a cancer-like infection with proven lethality among those who toy with it.