Why Nick Kristof And His Readers Are Wrong About The Iran Deal

Peter Huessy Mitchell Institute On Aerospace Studies
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Nicholas Kristof explains in the July 30th New York Times that the naysayers about the Iran deal are wrong. He puts together this unwieldy political sandwich, with layers of baloney and misconception, on top of a bed of wilted fairy tales and false narratives.

His essay generated nearly 1,000 comments just in the first day, with ninety percent being favorable. From these comments can be gleaned a fascinating world of the progressive, liberal mindset to which Kristof is appealing. This mindset does not resemble the 58 percent of America that opposes the Iran deal.

For example, opponents of the Iran deal and supporters of the Iraq war are condemned for having “created the never ending war against the never ending terrorist groups.” This is a very common narrative and it echoes Richard Clarke’s false claim that liberating Iraq from the murderous Saddam Hussein regime caused terrorism.

The terrorist attacks against America in 1993-2000 included: Shooting at CIA HQ (1993); the World Trade Center bombing (93); the Murrah building bombing (1995); the Khobar Towers Bombing (1996); the African Embassy Bombings (1998); and USS Cole Bombing in Yemen (2000).

Then we hear that “The rest of the world will make our sanctions useless” because Europe, Russia and China will get rid of sanctions anyway even if the U.S. Congress tries to keep some of the U.S. sanctions in place (those the president does not have the authority to waive).

In actuality, our sanctions related to Iran’s terrorist attacks and human rights violations do remain in place under the nuclear deal. It is unclear what practical effect this will. If made ineffective due to the nuclear deal, isn’t that an argument to rethink the deal itself?

Next we have a comment that says, “there is no possible deal that could prevent Iran from developing nukes forever.” This is precisely the point, but “never” in this case really is somewhere around 10 years when Iran will have a breakout capability worse than what they have today because their advanced research on modern centrifuges can be added to their working and stored centrifuges.

Another fortune cookie analysis from Kristof’s readership is that “Economic sanctions simply don’t bring countries to their knees — ever. The people of any country on Earth are too proud to capitulate to such tactics.”

In large part, critics wanted to see an agreement where the red-lines of the administration were secured, such as anywhere and anytime inspections and a full accounting of Iran’s previous military activities. After all, such inspections Iran has conceded are already necessary for “declared” Iranian nuclear facilities — why not those previously and subsequently revealed or discovered?

As for sanctions, those on both Libya and South Africa were removed in return for the complete not partial dismantlement of nuclear weapons in the case of South Africa and thousands of centrifuges in the case of Libya.

Another comment exhumes a common narrative that in 2003 those evil “neocons” in the Bush administration ignored an Iranian proposed “comprehensive grand bargain to resolve relations with the United States.”

A prevalent thread from Kristof’s readers was anger about Israel. One argued that Iran’s large population somehow gave it a right to have nuclear weapons while not Israel which only had “8 million people”. Another said if we want Iran to have international supervision of its nuclear activity so must Israel. Forgotten of course by such comments is that Iran signed up to the NPT that prohibits it from having nuclear weapons while Israel has not.

The most common reason for supporting the Iran deal and Kristof’s points was an assumption that the GOP has been responsible for “40 years of U.S. Middle East disasters,” and that no deal with Iran means more Middle East wars.

Of course, the two Middle East wars started in 1979 during the Carter administration when Saddam invaded Iran and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. The consequences of both still resonate today.

Furthermore, President Reagan worked successfully to see the Iraq-Iran war did not spread and did what was necessary to see that neither Iran nor Iraq “won” the war. Reagan did defuse the Iranian war against Kuwait tankers, and did secure the Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, no small achievements.

The Taliban were created after the Soviets left Afghanistan and not under Reagan or Bush 41’s watch. And they were created not by the U.S. but Pakistan and Saudi Arabia during the subsequent Afghani civil war, but on the Clinton administration’s watch.

True neither major political party in the U.S. comes through with flying colors when Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are concerned, either with respect to terrorism support or nuclear weapons proliferation in the decades leading up to 9-11.

But largely forgotten by Kristof’s fans is the Bush administration did secure the end of the A.Q. Khan “Nukes ‘R Us” network and the elimination of the Libyan nuclear weapons program through adept diplomacy. The Libyan agreement, unlike the Iranian agreement, did not let Qaddafi keep a third of his centrifuges and stiff inspectors and refuse to allow a full accounting of Libya’s past nuclear activities.

And as a result, the U.S. created the Proliferation Security Initiative which now boasts a membership of over 100 nations.

One reader got thoroughly confused by asserting the SALT treaty “was initiated by President Reagan in 1982 and signed by President Bush in 1991,” proving that “Treaties are made between enemies, not friends.”

Of course this was the START arms reductions treaty which was thoroughly opposed by Washington liberals when proposed in 1982 by President Reagan. The liberals supported a “nuclear freeze” which was what the Soviet Union was pushing at the same time. The SALT treaty was actually in 1972 and it proceeded a decade of Soviet expansion where the correlation of forces titled dramatically toward Moscow as some dozen and a half nations fell to communism or totalitarian tyranny.

This argument about how good it was to sign treaties with our enemies rather than “go to war” led many of Kristof’s readers to compare opposition to the Iran deal to, “Truman over the MacArthur matter; Ike on his Korean compromise, Nixon regarding China, and Reagan for talking with Gorbachev.”

Nixon’s opening to China was criticized for abandoning Taiwan — which we did. And by those who warned China’s rise will not necessarily be peaceful.

And as anyone with even a relatively limited knowledge of the Khan network and other realities of nuclear proliferation should understand, China has been one of the world’s great nuclear and WMD proliferators. Facilitating its economic and thus military rise has not exactly curbed that danger.

As for President Reagan’s arms control initiatives with the Soviets, they were largely concluded on US terms—we did not give up missile defense and did not give Moscow the right to store its SS-20 missiles temporarily as we are doing with Iran’s centrifuges. And we reduced Russia’s conventional weaponry advantage in Europe by two-thirds under the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty—as contrasted to ending a conventional weapons embargo on Iran and allowing Iran to purchase highly advanced fighter aircraft and refueling tankers.

Kristof’s fans believe all these things contrary to fact, history and logic but still are convinced if you are against the Iranian nuclear deal it’s because as one clever chap laid out “(1) we should never talk with enemies; (2) we’ll be duped by the clever adversary; (3) if we threaten more forcefully we’ll get a better deal; (4) if we’re strong the other side will capitulate and simply cave in; (5) the bad guys will cheat; (6) the status quo is better that any alternative.”

Talking with enemies is fine. It’s what you talk about which is important.

And yes our enemies are and can be clever. See North Korea and its nuke program; the Russians and Ukraine; China and the South China Sea; and Syria and chemical weapons.

Whether more sanctions and more military threats will be taken seriously by Iran depends upon our (America’s) prior credibility which you bring to the table.

When Reagan aided Solidarity in Poland; stared down the Soviets and deployed the Pershing and GLCM missiles in Europe; helped the mujahedin kick the Soviets out of Afghanistan; helped save the people of Central America from tyranny; and rearmed our country and its defenses, our friends and allies took us seriously just as they did not take the previous administration as such.

That credibility won the Cold War. And actions taken by Reagan to establish that credibility were universally opposed by liberals and progressives, including the delicate snowflakes at the New York Times.

And yes the bad guys will cheat. That is what they do. A good agreement is one which takes that into account and does indeed “Don’t trust and do verify.” The Iran deal does not do that. Just remember the “secret” side deals. And this time even if we pass the agreement we still won’t be able to know what’s in it!

One rare Kristof reader, and obviously not a fan, got it right when he noted, “1) It is not that we did not get what we wanted. It is what we were told that we will get (by Obama) and what we got in the end. 2) No one claims that Iran’s regime represents the people of Iran. And the deal is done with the regime, not the people. All it does is legitimize and strengthen the hard liners in Iran, not the moderates. 3) The hard liners will get access to frozen billions of dollars anyway because of Europe, Russia, and China. 4) Iran had been chanting death to America during the negotiations, and has made statement about wiping Israel off the map.”

Another smart Kristof reader explained, “Clinton signed a treaty with North Korea in 1994 and NK got nuclear weapons 12 years later,” and “no matter how the liberal media tries to spin it, the pacifist agreement resulted in a [nuclear armed] rogue.”

Today, we might wonder if they’re doing the same.