Last week’s United Nations General Assembly epitomised current relations between the USA and Iran. The handshake between Barack Obama and Mohammad Javad Zarif was the first between a US president and Iran’s top diplomat since 1979. But whilst it marked an historic step forward in Western-Iranian relations, it was nonetheless met with hostility from religious hardliners back in Iran. One MP posted a picture on Instagram directed at Zarif showing a handshake between a human hand and a devil’s hand with the text reading “Did you sign the nuclear deal with the same hand?”
Nonetheless, I fully support the deal, and I have decided to write this article to explain why I feel the arguments against it are flawed, and why successfully reaching a deal is crucial now more than ever.
The main domestic opposition to Obama signing the deal came from members of the Republican Party, and for the following reasons I think whatever they say should be taken with a very large pinch of salt. Most of the main opponents to the deal were preparing to or already were launching their own Presidential bids, and as such were and are highly partisan. A large part of many of the candidates’ campaigns will be based around discrediting Obama by condemning his policies, as well as attempting to block the deal passing in order to claim he has done nothing whilst in power.
The arguments themselves (even ignoring their dubious motives) are also highly flawed. Many have called for a better deal, as if the arduous negotiations were to secure a substandard deal. The details of this “better deal” remain unsurprisingly hazy. Some call for the release of the three Americans imprisoned in Iran, but as President Obama has already explained that would only encourage the Iranians to exploit this as a weakness and push for more concessions. However, the most common complaint is that the deal does not achieve a key aim: immediate and complete nuclear disarmament. This is completely unrealistic; we cannot expect a sovereign state to agree to dismantle its entire nuclear programme because a foreign country tells it to, however many sanctions we promise to lift.
Some have even called to threaten military action in order to strong-arm the Iranians into a more favourable deal, and even more scarily, some call for war. Threats have been tried before and do not and will not work, so trying them again will only isolate Iran further and make peace and reconciliation even harder. It is worrying that the irony and stupidity of invading a middle-eastern country in order to deal with nuclear weapons and secure peace even has to be explained.
Another popular line is that this deal is worse than no deal. No, it is not. No deal would mean not only could Iran reach nuclear capacity far more quickly and easily, America (and by extension the West) would remain the great Satan, and Iran would be even more isolated economically and diplomatically. While this deal is not perfect, it is certainly better than no deal.
The deal is also massively beneficial to relations with Iran, and this is important now more than ever. As every other country in the Middle East seems to be in some form of turmoil, Iran is both our ally against IS, and our enemy (and by extension Russia’s ally) against Assad in Syria. As the region becomes a mess of proxy wars and Shia-Sunni violence it is crucial that we work towards better relations with Iran, and the nuclear deal will certainly allow us to do that.