Small World: U.S. and Iran reach agreement

Henry Precht

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

Last week, I offered a column presenting a sharp analysis of the current Middle East by quoting the views of a broadly experienced and wise former ambassador.

Today, for a discussion of the U.S.-Iran deal on the latter’s nuclear program, I aim even higher: To obtain an authoritative and detailed accounting of the deal I suggest you go to the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman’s interview with President Obama at®ion=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0.

It is eloquent and long on the pluses of the agreement (I don’t recall any minuses mentioned) and quite persuasive. As one commentator observed, the achievement of the agreement finally justifies the Nobel Peace Prize Obama received not long after he was sworn in for his first term.

I could now return to weeding my beans and tomatoes, but the urge to add my leaky faucet of words to the flood of rhetoric is too much pressure. Here, follow a few points that Mr. Obama was too presidential to discuss.

For starters, without saying so, he made the case that this agreement is important for American security first and foremost. It is our country that is concerned with how the development of an Iranian nuke might affect our position in the strategic Middle East. Other nations might also share this concern and reach a different conclusion on what we should do about it. But our negotiators — while aware of these differing perspectives — did not yield to them.

Polls report that the American people support a negotiated agreement with Iran rather than a prolonged stalemate and the very real threat of yet another Middle Eastern war. Obama listened to them. He put American interests first — unlike a long list of presidents — in front of Israeli and Saudi demands.

There are exceptions to that large majority, to be sure: Republicans in Congress persist in rigid opposition to Obama as they have these past seven years whether the cause is foreign (Cuba) or domestic (health care). The fact that some very big bucks are waved under their noses by moguls (Sheldon Adelson, Haim Saban), who prefer Netanyahu to Obama, is generally ignored by the national press.

Another bunch, who oppose a deal with Iran, are those in the armaments industries who have vested interests in the prolongation of a state of strife for the United States. Perhaps it is overly cynical to suggest that arms sales depend on the failure of diplomacy. Alas, would that the resources and energy they consume were devoted to environmental issues and the strengthening of the weaker elements in our communities.

Even more meekly, let us ask the deal’s opponents what route they would recommend for neutralizing the Iranian “threat?” I suspect we would hear similar rhetoric to that from the health care debate: rigid opposition without a thought given to a substitute, improved plan. As history bears witness, democracies work best when both sides have constructive ideas.

But let us lift our eyes to a horizon of hope for our fortunes in the region — despite Obama’s injunction against letting our wishes influence our expectations. Nations change — not always for the better. My hunch is that Iran will behave quite differently in the years ahead unlike the criminal country that, fired up by revolution, sought to bring down the structures of the region, whatever the damage to ordinary people. Other nations — traditional friends of ours — will also change and not always in ways that we might wish. The important thing is not to be beholden to the past, but to examine trends and conditions honestly and coldly measure them against our (repeat our) national needs.

Finally, let me applaud one side remark in Obama’s interview: He is keenly aware of how the prolonged crises of the region are affecting its coming generations. It is essential that we allow young Iranians, Saudis, Egyptians and Israelis to have opportunities to influence the direction their governments take in the future — without outside interference.

My concluding judgment on this long negotiation is shared by neither its supporters nor opponents: I don’t think Iran has ever planned to produce a nuclear weapon. Iranians are no fools and they know possession of a nuke would be suicidal against U.S. power. Their innocence of evil intent made concessions possible in the talks because they were giving up positions they never seriously sought.

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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