A Few Simple Questions for My Anti-Iran-Deal, Obama-Bashing Friends in the US and Israel

Just a few simple questions for my anti-‪#‎IranDeal‬, Obama-bashing friends in the US and Israel.

1) Do you understand that a military strike against Iran, setting aside its global game-changing consequences, would only set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions for a couple of years? Then what?

2) What is your better idea? Not in the abstract, but an alternative that can be realistically implemented, supportable by the P5 allies, and that has any real chance of containing the Iranian nuclear program?

3) Are you familiar with the expression that “the perfect is the enemy of the good”, and that there can be no “perfect” outcome in this situation?

And for those who insist that a deal shouldn’t be made because “we can’t trust Iran,” heed the words of long-time US policy guru David Gergen, that the only important international agreements ever made are with those countries we don’t trust!

Wake up and smell the coffee. And stop carping unless you have a better (and achievable) alternative.

PS  A postscript in response to a question received by a journalist working in Israel about the widespread opposition among the Israeli public to the proposed Iran deal. Of course Israelis are frightened of Iran and its nuclear ambitions. To not be frightened would be foolish. I keep coming back to the same question though: what is a better viable (i.e. achievable) alternative to the P5+1 negotiated agreement? Of course everyone would prefer to wake up one morning and find that Iran has seen the light and renounced nuclear development, bulldozed its centrifuges, and asked forgiveness from Israel, the West and the Sunni world for its misguided policies.

But absent that fantasy, I still believe that the best available approach is a policy of negotiated containment with a strict international verification regime, a “carrot” of economic easing while keeping alive the “stick” option to both snap-back rigid sanctions and to use military power if all else fails. I’m still waiting to hear a better idea. Further down the road, constructive engagement of Iran — social, economic, even political — is not unimaginable, even though it’s hard to see right now.

People are conflating a number of different — and all worrisome — issues, and coming to the wrong conclusion. First, Iran’s role as the prime mover and sponsor of armed Shi’a conflict with growing swaths of the Sunni Muslim world. Second, Iran’s stated commitment to Israel’s destruction. Third, of course, are Iran’s nuclear ambitions. As I said before, wouldn’t it be nice if Iran did t’shuva and abandoned all three of these paths? But if we step back and think realistically about the first two threats posed by Iran, isn’t it therefore in Israel’s and everyone else’s interest to restrict Iran’s ability to arm itself with nuclear weapons to the maximum possible extent, while avoiding a Mideast nuclear arms race, by using powerful carrots as well as sticks, and to hope such a move might lead down the road to a more constructive engagement? Most decisions in life involve making a choice among imperfect options, as does this one. I happen to believe that the Kerry/Obama/P5+1 plan is not only the best available, but a pretty good one

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About Ami Nahshon

Ami serves as principal consultant and managing director of Ami Nahshon Strategic Consulting, working with nonprofits, foundations, social businesses and their leaders to optimize organizational strategy and performance.
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