The Insane Logic Underlying Republican Opposition to the Iran Deal

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The Insane Logic Underlying Republican Opposition to the Iran Deal

Republicans are, naturally, united in their opposition to the preliminary deal the Obama administration struck with Iran to restrain its nuclear program. And now, the presidential candidates in particular are going to compete with each other to see who can make their opposition more categorical. They're all criticizing it, of course, and Scott Walker has already said that on the day of his inauguration, he'll pull out of the deal. I'm guessing the rest of them will follow suit and pledge something similar. The question is: OK, so on January 20, 2017, you announce that we're out of the deal (since we're in the Republican fantasy world for the moment, let's put aside the involvement of Europe and the UN). What happens next?  

Well for starters, the Iranians would no longer be constrained by the things they agreed to. They could kick out all the inspectors and institute a crash program to create a nuclear weapon if they wanted. Are Republicans saying that Iran would never do that? I don't think so. Yet in practice, the Republican position seems to be: 1) We can never trust the Iranians to adhere to the terms of any nuclear deal we sign with them because of their insatiable thirst for nuclear weapons, so 2) If there's no agreement at all—no limits on nuclear research, no limits on the quantity and purity of uranium they can enrich, no inspections—then everything will be OK.

To be clear, I'm not saying this deal is perfect, though a lot of people who know a lot about this issue are arguing that it's far stronger than what they expected (see here, for instance). But Republicans aren't saying we need to reopen negotiations and push for something better. They're just saying we should scrap the agreement, and then ... well, they actually don't say what happens then.

In effect, the Republican argument is, We've put this dangerous criminal in prison, but I don't think this prison is secure enough. He might escape! So the answer is to tear down the prison and let him go. Then we'll be safe from him.

So they ought to be asked: Are you proposing a re-negotiation of this deal? Or are you just saying that if we scrap it and reimpose sanctions on Iran, then they'll capitulate to all our demands? And if that's what you're saying, is there any reason at all to think that might happen? After all, Iran has been under sanctions from the U.S., the EU, and many other countries for years, yet their nuclear program has continued. What will be different without an agreement?

We should hear conservatives out on all their specific complaints about this deal. They might have a case to make about particular weaknesses. But in every case, we have to ask: What's your alternative? I haven't yet heard an answer from any of them, other than the few honest enough to say what so many of them are thinking, that no deal will ever work and we should just go ahead and start bombing.

The Insane Logic Underlying Republican Opposition to the Iran Deal

Republicans are, naturally, united in their opposition to the preliminary deal the Obama administration struck with Iran to restrain its nuclear program. And now, the presidential candidates in particular are going to compete with each other to see who can make their opposition more categorical. They're all criticizing it, of course, and Scott Walker has already said that on the day of his inauguration, he'll pull out of the deal. I'm guessing the rest of them will follow suit and pledge something similar. The question is: OK, so on January 20, 2017, you announce that we're out of the deal (since we're in the Republican fantasy world for the moment, let's put aside the involvement of Europe and the UN). What happens next?  

Well for starters, the Iranians would no longer be constrained by the things they agreed to. They could kick out all the inspectors and institute a crash program to create a nuclear weapon if they wanted. Are Republicans saying that Iran would never do that? I don't think so. Yet in practice, the Republican position seems to be: 1) We can never trust the Iranians to adhere to the terms of any nuclear deal we sign with them because of their insatiable thirst for nuclear weapons, so 2) If there's no agreement at all—no limits on nuclear research, no limits on the quantity and purity of uranium they can enrich, no inspections—then everything will be OK.

To be clear, I'm not saying this deal is perfect, though a lot of people who know a lot about this issue are arguing that it's far stronger than what they expected (see here, for instance). But Republicans aren't saying we need to reopen negotiations and push for something better. They're just saying we should scrap the agreement, and then ... well, they actually don't say what happens then.

In effect, the Republican argument is, We've put this dangerous criminal in prison, but I don't think this prison is secure enough. He might escape! So the answer is to tear down the prison and let him go. Then we'll be safe from him.

So they ought to be asked: Are you proposing a re-negotiation of this deal? Or are you just saying that if we scrap it and reimpose sanctions on Iran, then they'll capitulate to all our demands? And if that's what you're saying, is there any reason at all to think that might happen? After all, Iran has been under sanctions from the U.S., the EU, and many other countries for years, yet their nuclear program has continued. What will be different without an agreement?

We should hear conservatives out on all their specific complaints about this deal. They might have a case to make about particular weaknesses. But in every case, we have to ask: What's your alternative? I haven't yet heard an answer from any of them, other than the few honest enough to say what so many of them are thinking, that no deal will ever work and we should just go ahead and start bombing.