by Norman Robbins of Cleveland Peace Action
When arguments about the Iran nuclear deal rage over arcane matters such as the allowable kilograms of low enriched uranium, the reliability of Additional Protocol inspections, or whether Iran can reprocess spent fuel, most of us find our eyes glazing over. We really just want to know whether the nuclear deal has sufficiently blocked all pathways to building a nuclear weapon for a reasonable period. As adults, we know that a fair deal was bound to leave each side somewhat dissatisfied. But is the big picture positive or negative?
One way to decide is to evaluate the credibility of those holding differing views. When we do so, it appears that on balance, most qualified experts who have spoken out publicly favor the deal.
For starters, a great many published statements of support for the deal have come from eminent military, nuclear, diplomatic and nonproliferation experts, altogether totaling hundreds of individuals (see references at https://peaceblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/validators-of-iran-nuclear-deal/). The number of these experts, many who have served under both Democratic and Republican administrations, absolutely dwarfs the handful of bona fide experts (not including media pundits) who oppose the deal.
For instance, more than 80 Israeli former military and intelligence leaders support the deal or at least have advised Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to stop opposing it, and reportedly few Israeli military people say the deal is a major detriment to Israel.
So why should we listen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warnings of dire consequences? Do Israel’s military and intelligence leaders know or care less about Israel’s security than Netanyahu?
In stark contrast, Netanyahu, the leader of the charge to scuttle the agreement, has a long history of making confident predictions that have turned out to be dead wrong. From 1992 to 2012 (for 20 years!), he repeatedly predicted that Iran would have a nuclear bomb in three years or less.
Wrong! Since 2007, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, a consensus of 16 intelligence agencies, repeatedly affirmed that Iran has not worked on a nuclear weapon since 2003 and has not decided whether to do so.
Netanyahu ”guaranteed” Congress in 2002 that ”the Iraq War would have enormous positive reverberations in the region.”
Wrong! We all know how that fiasco turned out.
Netanyahu has demanded that a nuclear deal with Iran must compel Iran to totally dismantle its nuclear program.
Wrong! We know for a fact that precisely this demand undermined U.S.-European attempts at negotiation with Iran from 2003 to 2013. Numerous polls have shown that Iranians proudly consider their peaceful nuclear program as non-negotiable, especially in view of their dismal history of humiliating quasi-colonial interventions.
Stack up these major and repeated wrong-headed blunders, many contrary to the advice and opinion of experienced experts, and it is clear that one should set little stock by what Netanyahu and his followers claim, especially in the category of hyperbolic fearmongering (e.g., that Iran is going to attack the United States or Israel with nukes).
Those who oppose the deal assure us that we can get a better deal if we sack this one, but most experienced diplomats disagree. European, Chinese and Russian ambassadors have told members of Congress that the sanctions would collapse and no new deal could emerge if Congress sank the deal. Claims that the United States could impose ”secondary” sanctions on countries that resume trade with Iran have been countered by economic experts who point out that the resulting losses of trade (e.g. with China and Southeast Asian countries) would greatly harm the U.S. economy.
Again, naysayers assert that if the deal falls through and Iran restores its pre-existing nuclear capacity, we can always default to military action. Indeed, one of Netanyahu’s major U.S. financial supporters, Sheldon Adelson, publicly proposed dropping nukes on Iran to force it to abandon its nuclear program, and Netanyahu has never disavowed that genocidal proposal.
How credible are these people? Once again, 36 retired U.S. military leaders, who know well the dire unintended consequences of heedless military action, say we must try the diplomatic approach long before we contemplate military action.
We have some 20,000 American sailors and perhaps 10,000 soldiers on bases within easy reach of enormous numbers of Iranian ship- and shore-based missiles. Do we really want to put their lives at risk by refusing to listen to voices of reason and experience?
Will our still-uncommitted Ohio Congress members — Marcia Fudge, Marcy Kaptur, Tim Ryan and Joyce Beatty — have the courage to resist pressure and be among those listeners?
Robbins is an emeritus professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University and Iran consultant to Cleveland Peace Action.