Two huge stories have overwhelmed the news during this past week: the attempts in the United States to permit discrimination against anyone in the United States because of expressed religious belief, and the framework agreement between world powers and Iran to curb Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Iran must reduce the number of its centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium into a bomb by more than two-thirds and redesigning a power plant to keep it from producing weapons-grade plutonium as well as eliminating much of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. In the agreement, Iran consents to regular international nuclear inspections. President Obama said that “this framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the deal would contribute to peace and stability in the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims the agreement is a “threat to Israel’s existence.” His government released a statement that Iran has made no concessions despite its agreement that it will give up 97 percent of its enriched uranium stockpile and sharply reduce the number of centrifuges.
Israel’s media disagrees with Netanyahu. In Haaretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper, journalist Barak Ravid wrote that the agreement “is not a bad deal” and concluded, “Israel will have a hard time fighting this agreement, or portraying it as bad.” The article states that the agreement preserves Israel’s security interests.
Without the agreement, Iran could possibly produce a nuclear bomb in three to four months. With the agreement, Iran will be required to scale down three production facilities for at least a decade and turn these into scientific and medical research. The country is blocked from building any new facilities for 15 years. The 25-year international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, supply chain for nuclear materials, and uranium mines will be the most intensive in the history of the world. Any violation will immediately bring back the sanctions against the country.
Iranian citizens have celebrated their country’s agreement with the P5+1—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany—while hardliners are furious. Moderate Iranian politicians have lost their power for not being sufficiently anti-American. Any easing of hostilities between Iran and the United States is, according to hardliners, a matter of treason. Basically, the Iranian conservatives in Iran take the same position as the conservatives in the United States.
Most Republicans in Congress have worked hard to destroy any possibility of an agreement with Iran. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) invited Netanyahu to address Congress to sway not only legislators but also the people of the United States. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) convinced 46 other senators to sign an open letter to Iran in the hopes of scuttling any diplomatic efforts. Following the announcement of the agreement, right-wingers have made egregious statements about the framework:
- Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL): The deal is worse than Neville Chamberlain’s talk with Hitler before World War II.
- Israeli columnist for Politico Ari Shavit: The Iran agreement is just like the Iraq War—which is the country’s bloodiest conflicts of the twenty-first century.
- American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s video: The visual shows the Statue of Liberty’s arm falling off in response to the agreement.
- Bloomberg’s Eli Lake: “The Iranian-Swedish con man is gloating,” in reference to one of the agreement’s proponents, Trita Parsia who moved from Iran to Sweden as a child and lived most of his life in the United States.
- Laura Ingraham: “If only the secular Left put as much trust & faith in the people of Indiana as they do in the rulers in Iran.”
- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): Upset about the lack of support for the United States, he would “absolutely” defy American allies by scrapping an Iran deal.
- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI): The presidential candidate would cancel any Iranian deal, sight unseen, that comes from the Obama administration. (He doesn’t need to read anything to reject it!)
As Jonathan Chait wrote, the conservatives hate this agreement because they hate all agreements since World War II.
The Yalta agreement stopping the war against the Soviets after the Allies defeated Germany in World War II formed the basis for Sen. Joe McCarthy’s (R-WI) paranoid ravings. Conservatives who tried to amend the constitution with the “Bricker Amendment,” limiting the president’s ability to agree to foreign treaties, were blocked by President Eisenhower.
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), a pact to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to states that had not yet obtained them, was denounced by the National Review as “immoral, foolish, and probably most impractical, a policy that makes nonsense of our defensive alliance in Europe, that favors our enemies and slights our allies.” The NPT is now used to prevent Iran from obtaining nukes.
President Richard Nixon’s opening to China was compared by conservatives to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.
Nixon’s policy of detente with the Soviet Union was described by conservatives as “one of the greater triumphs of the Soviet propaganda machine.”
The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) was “profoundly unwise,” according to conservatives. Ronald Reagan opposed it in his campaign and then abided by it before signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, to massive dismay from the right-wingers who compared Reagan to Chamberlain negotiating with Hitler.
In his speech announcing the agreement with Iran, President Obama said:
“When you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented backed by the world’s powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”
The United States started the Iraq War with conservatives spreading fear about nuclear weapons. Netanyahu was a major instigator of this war when he told Congress in 2002 that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.”
John Bolton, booster and co-architect of the war in Iraq, represents most conservatives in Congress with his recent NYT op-ed, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Thirteen years ago, he was “confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq” and “the Iraqi people would be unique in history if they didn’t welcome the overthrow of this dictatorial regime.” He was 100 percent wrong, and he knew it at the time.
Robert Gates, defense secretary for George W. Bush and Barack Obama after CIA director under George H.W. Bush, said bombing Iran could prove a “catastrophe.” Meir Dagan, leader of Israel’s external spy service from 2002 to 2011, warned that an attack on Iran “would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.” He added, “The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.”
Since 9/11, jihadists have killed 26 Americans on U.S. soil, 13 of them killed by another soldier at Fort Hood, while right-wing extremists have killed 39. During the same time, an average of over 30,000 people died from guns each year—an approximate total of 450,000 people. Many of the same people who fight to keep unfettered ownership of guns spread fear about Iran with hopes to bomb the country.
About 1 million people died in Iraq during the ten years after the U.S. declared war on the country; 220,000 died in Afghanistan, and 80,000 died in Pakistan. During just the Bush years, 4.5 million Iraqis—one in six—were displaced, and only five percent went back to their homes by 2009. The 1-2 million widows and 5 million orphans leave half the people in Iraq tragically impacted by deaths.
Two years ago, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was estimated to go as high as $6 trillion dollars–$75,000 for every household in America. At that time, more than half the 1,560,000 discharged military service members had gotten medical treatment and been granted benefits for the rest of their lives. All the financing for the wars was done by borrowing, which has run up interest that taxpayers must fund. At the same time, Bush’s tax cuts cost the country about $2.1 trillion in lost revenue during the first nine years.
People in the United States don’t feel any safer when conservatives win elections by spreading fear. The conservatives claimed that war in Iraq would cost taxpayers about $200 billion. Between tax cuts that didn’t improve the economy and war costs, the tab is closing in on $10 trillion and sure to rise even without bombing Iran. That’s $10 trillion that could have dropped the deficit. A war in Iran will cost even more. In the words of John Lennon, quoted in another context by presidential contender in his coming-out speech, “Give peace a chance.”