According to a poll, 58% of Americans are against the nuclear deal with Iran. Given it was pretty much the only realistic option available to the American government, on the surface of it this majority opinion is rather odd.
Let’s run through the basics of the deal briefly: in 2002, the Americans obtained solid proof that Iran was developing its own nuclear weapons. The U.S. responded with heavy sanctions against the offending country – with no real give in Iran’s nuclear ambitions for the next decade at all. In 2013, a break appeared that offered up the chance of new discussions on the topic when Hassan Rohani became president, replacing the volatile Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Given elections in Iran are democratically suspect, this offered the possibility as well that the theocracy that actually runs the country could be sending signals to the Americans that they were willing to re-open discussions – on their terms, but nonetheless, the chance to progress.
So what have Iran and America now agreed to? Iran halts its nuclear program for 15 years, with full UN monitoring access, in return for the sanctions against the country being lifted. Basically, everyone should win here. The US not only reduces a major security threat in the Middle East, at the same time a whole new market is opened up to them of around 80 million people with a middle class that will only grow larger as the sanction lifting improves their economy.
What’s so odd about any antipathy towards the deal is consideration of what other possible options there are. America wouldn’t even engage in a proxy war with Iran in the shape of Syrian intervention – and that was with chemical warfare added to the mix. So the idea of them (or a western coalition of some description) militarily invading Iran is the fantasy of a coterie of Fox pundits. So given that, getting Iran to compromise on its nuclear ambitions, even if it only lasts a short period of time, is the only remaining idea.
But of course, I was being slightly disingenuous with my headline: I know exactly why a majority of Americans don’t like the Iran deal. It’s for the same reason so many Brits don’t like their country being in the EU – it is symbolic of declining world power. The idea that America needs to barter with likes of the Iranian theocracy is something many will not be able to come to terms with in terms of their national narrative. “Can’t we just bomb them?” many with less grasp of foreign policy in the U.S. will say. But this really was the best Kerry and his cohorts could have possibly done: getting the Iranians to put their ambitions in the nuclear warfare department on hold for warmer relations with the Americans, something that has great value to them in terms of their Cold War with the Saudis above and beyond the economic benefits.
Most Britons support the deal, but then again, there is no existential threat there – this time, it’s not our empire that’s crumbling. Still, the Americans should just come to terms with reality and see that this is far and away the best thing that could have come out of the discussions between the two countries.