Right-wing radicals from Trump to Netanyahu are pounding the drum with the message that Iran is going to cheat on the nuclear deal that just went into effect, that Iran remains a religious dictatorship, and that Iran is still supporting terrorists around the globe. There’s an element of truth in all of these things, but nothing in this world is that simple.
With the doom and gloom pouring out of every Republican and even most Democrats, with climate change, with the one percent in control, and even with Oregon anarchists and puppy mill stores in St. George, it’s nice to have something positive to write about. There’s an element of hope, and today, due to the implementation of a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, that element of hope has become larger. Let’s look at the details.
Will Iran will cheat on the deal?
Maybe. But it won’t be easy. Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, ticks off the ways that Iran is now prevented from building a bomb: “There are two ways to build a nuclear weapon: using uranium or plutonium. The Hiroshima bomb was made from uranium; the Nagasaki bomb from plutonium. This deal stops Iran from building either one.” Both by shipping raw materials out of the country and by eliminating their bomb-making equipment, Iran just doesn’t have the capability to make a bomb now.
Every Iranian leader — even the hard-liner Ahmadinejad who, thankfully, is gone now and replaced by a moderate — has insisted that Iran never, ever intended to build a bomb. I don’t believe them either, because they had far too much plutonium-based infrastructure for anything else. But I do believe that their strategy had a fallback position, and that was to become a leader in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. There are lots of countries doing that now. Japan could build a bomb easily. So could South Korea. South Africa did build a bomb and then backed away. This deal could steer Iran towards a bomb-free nuclear future just as many other countries have done. Today, only the rogue states of Israel and North Korea have undeclared nuclear weapons.
Should we just bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities?
Absolutely not. The warmongers (McCain, Bolton) think we could carry out a strike like the ones that Israel used against Syria and Iraq. Sorry, but the world has become much more complex. Not only are Iran’s facilities hardened against any attack like that, but they’re dispersed too. No single attack, or even waves of attacks, could ever do it today. The most we could do is start World War III. Destroying Iran’s nuclear capability with a military strike is just a wet dream that Netanyahu has. Besides, Iran itself has now done a more thorough job of destroying those exact sites than we could ever do with a bomb. And it happened through peaceful diplomacy.
What might happen now?
Iran could still make a low-tech bomb as both Pakistan and North Korea have done. Bombs like these are the national equivalent of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and are almost impossible to prevent. But like IEDs, they’re the tool of terrorist states, not nations that want to be part of the world community. If India didn’t have a bomb, then neither would Pakistan. It is amazing that Iran has been persuaded to abandon their bomb since its mortal enemy, Israel, has an uncontrolled and secret nuclear weapons arsenal already. Fortunately, Iran currently wants to be part of the world community, unlike North Korea. That makes a diplomatic solution possible. But if Saudi Arabia were pushed into developing a nuclear bomb, something that they probably could do without too much trouble, Iran most certainly would withdraw from the deal and resume bomb-making again.
Keep in mind that although Iran is still a religious dictatorship, there is also a growing democratic tradition in Iran that is better than that of some nations we call allies in the Middle East. For example, Iran is far more democratic than Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Israel is still a democracy today, but it’s becoming more like the South Africa before Nelson Mandela every day. Radical right-wing Zionists control much of the government, and it’s a self-declared Jewish state. Other religions are only tolerated in Israel. Unlike other countries in the region, democracy has deeper roots in Iran. Democracy would have taken hold and flourished if America and Britain had not snuffed it out when they engineered the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossaddegh in 1953 and installed a puppet monarchy.
Iran could become a full democracy and a valued member of the world community. As President Obama said on Sunday, “We have a rare chance to pursue a new path, a different, better future that delivers progress both for our peoples and the wider world. That’s the opportunity before the Iranian people. We need to take advantage of that.”
Or Iran could descend back into a feudal religious dictatorship. A lot depends on what we do.