The discussion around the Iran nuclear agreement made by the Obama Administration as a result of the PS + 1 talks has been wholly political. Of course the sort of illogical rhetoric grounded in talking points from special interest groups is to be expected from Florida’s Junior Senator and Presidential aspirant Marco Rubio, but it’s disappointing when it spreads to more statemanlike Republicans and even over to the Democratic side of the aisle.
Whipped into a frenzy by FOX News, Newsmax and various special interest groups, the debate on Iran has been wholly political and quite frankly dangerous. Our Senator Bill Nelson deserves praise for eschewing these political games and coming out in favor of the agreement. But many other Democrats haven’t avoided the bait and have opted to side with these forces that seek to derail the agreement.
Somehow missed in the American narrative about this deal is that conservative leaders in the United Kingdom and Germany were parties to and continue SUPPORT this agreement. Time and again I have spoken on this website about the needed pivot away from Sunni Arab interests in the Muslim world by the United States and more of an even handed and fair broker approach. Some of the leading US allies in the region such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar are every bit as despotic and dangerous as Iran. Those states are also committed to the long-term destruction of Israel and have arguably contributed more (especially in the case of the Saudi’s) to training terrorists that threaten American interests globally, even if most of the terrorists that hit Israel are backed by Iran.
Historically, the Iran discussion follows the pattern of multiple 20th century foreign policy debates in the congress where extremism won out and the world paid the price. This is ironic given the apoplectic terms by which the opponents of the deal have framed the discussion. But in fact if they win the day, it will be far more dangerous a world we live in.
Following the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson returned to the United States to find significant opposition to the treaty. Isolationist Republicans primarily from the Midwest (but led by Massachusetts Henry Cabot Lodge) teamed with reactionary southern conservative Democrats to defeat the Treaty and block US involvement in the League of Nations. What ensued was a quick slide toward World War II with American leadership both political and economic absent from the proceedings.
Pre World War II isolationism had to be overcome for Franklin Roosevelt to get the aid to Britain necessary to keep the UK and its Empire from falling or making peace with Germany. American isolationism pushed by the “America First Committee,” and others served to ISOLATE the British and AID the Germans. Similarly in this case American disengagement could ISOLATE Israel and AID Iran unless the US goes to war. President Roosevelt had to find various clever means to arm the British and later the Soviets before US entry into the war. Schemes like “Cash and Carry, and Lend-Lease” were effective only to a certain point for the cash-strapped and isolated British who were fighting for their lives.
Direct American aid to Britain would have been more practical but was prohibited under various neutrality laws that Republicans and their Southern Democratic allies pushed through the Congress. Thus Roosevelt had to work around those laws to give Britain limited aid. These laws benefited Nazi Germany’s rise in a way few other pieces of legislation in any nation did.
In the early 1990’s President’s Bush and Clinton pushed through an arms embargo against combatants in the Balkan Wars. This was a colossal error as genocide ensued in the former Yugoslavia. In a twist of irony given today’s politics, the neoconservatives led by Paul Wolfowitz argued, correctly in my opinion that aiding the Bosnia Muslims was in the best interests of the US and would help prevent a larger conflict that eventually involved American soldiers in the region. For once in history, Wolfowitz was correct and in a further irony the Bosnians under am embargo that President Clinton refused to remove turned to Tehran for aid. Thus Bosnia fell under the direct influence of Iran. As our reader know, American troops were eventually deployed on two different occasions to the region under President Clinton, first in late 1995 after the Dayton Accords ended the Bosnian War and in 1999 as part of a larger NATO effort in the Kosovo War.
The world will move forward if the United States Congress rejects this Iran Agreement. The US will either be isolated and without the ability to use soft power to influence proceedings in the Middle East, while Iran grows stronger or the US will have to engage in a military conflict to deal with the Iranian nuclear program. The US also will have missed an important opportunity to pivot away from lockstep adherence to the world view of despotic regimes like that of Saudi Arabia and regardless of what Likud’s backers in the United States claim, would have missed an opportunity to move Israel toward a more peaceful coexistence with its neighbors.
Since the stakes are so high it is disappointing to see such blatant disregard for the geopolitical consequences or the true lessons of history as they apply to this matter. President Obama and Secretary Kerry have done masterful work with this agreement and it is unfortunate that once again the viscous cycle of American reactionary politics to a foreign policy matter seems to have a chance of winning the day.