Guest editorial: A ‘rightful place’ for Iran; a way to avoid war for the U.S.
Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States — plus Germany) have now agreed on a document that severely limits Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon. In return for that limitation and the ability of the Western signatories to inspect existing Iranian nuclear facilities as well as suspected military/nuclear facilities, the Iranians will see the end of most of the sanctions that have plagued them since 1979.
It is important here to note that Iran’s primary foreign policy goal is to reestablish its “rightful place” within the region.
In that context, who stands to profit from this deal? Certainly Iran, for they will get access to the $100-plus billion funds that have been frozen in western banks since the Iranian revolution in 1979, as well as the end to many of the non-financial sanctions imposed on them since then, including oil exports, trade, asset freezes, travel bans and weapons development.
The P5+1 will benefit primarily from seeing the end for at least 10 years of the Iranian nuclear weapons program and from increased trade possibilities. The most important benefits will come as a result of the U.S. not having to move to a military confrontation with Iran, which would almost certainly be the result of the failure of this agreement.
Who loses? Israel loses, primarily because it will not be able to goad the U.S. government into a preemptive strike against Iran and because Iran’s influence in the region will grow. AIPAC loses because they are totally aligned with Israel, and Saudi Arabia loses because Iran, with all that new money, is likely to severely challenge Saudi hegemony in the Gulf.
The only thing missing here is the possibility that Iran has not been developing nuclear weapons since a 2003 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate said they had stopped that program. Could they later have deluded us into believing they had restarted it if only to force protracted, believable negotiations, just now concluded, solely to get their hands on the $100-plus billion and the end of sanctions? These are, after all, critical considerations in their drive to reach their historic regional goals. And all this by giving up something that never really existed? They are certainly that smart!
There are those who denigrate the agreement and harp on the notion that Iran will restart its nuclear weapons program covertly or at the conclusion of the agreement and use the bomb, probably against Israel. Of course, what they are saying is that the Iranians are a bunch of know-nothing rag heads, intent on self-destruction.
How far from the truth can that be? The ancient Persians (Iranians) were in the process of working out a viable alphabet when our European forbears were scuttling about in their caves dressed in bearskins. Organized communities first existed in Iran around 8,000 BC. The first Persian kingdom began around 2,800 BC and in the 6th century BC, those Persians ruled from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus River. It was the first great kingdom to exist in the world and was certainly the greatest Empire of its time.
The Persian cultural contribution to the world has ranged from art through architecture, music, technology and science to literature.
The Iranians are educated (77 percent literate), thoughtful, smart, clever and nationalistic. They are anything but stupid. Despite the stupidly ugly rhetoric employed by some of their political leaders since 1979, they are anything but the wild-eyed ragheads that some in the west portray them to be. They are in no way suicidal.
Even the Iranians realize that nuclear weapons are a powerful tool only as long as they are not used. For, once they are used, deterrence is irrelevant and the aggressors are literally consumed by their own stupidity. Iran is smart enough to avoid that fate.
With a land mass of over 630,000 square miles, a military establishment of over 500,000 armed forces, an educated population of over 75 million, two-thirds of the world’s crude oil reserve and potential control over the Arabian Gulf, it is time we recognized that Iran has a role to play in its region and that we can help that role to be either positive or negative.
Our European partners will ratify the agreement. If we do, we will get to see how Iran responds, with unlimited future options open to us. If we do not ratify this agreement, our hawks in both parties will lead us to inevitable military action against Iran, completely unsupported in the West outside Israel, which will be a disaster for the entire world.
In many ways, Iran’s future is really up to us.
Editor’s note: Haviland Smith is a retired CIA station chief who served in Prague, Berlin, Beirut, Tehran and Washington, and as executive assistant in the director’s office and chief of the Counterterrorism Staff.