Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz deliver a tour de force critique of the Iran framework deal. The essay is easily the smartest thing we have seen written on the subject thus far.
It starts by dishing out heaping portions of skepticism as to the enforceability of any putative final agreement. Consider the challenges: the size of Iran, the complexity of its program, the skill the Iranians have developed for deceit and concealment, and the intricacies of both domestic and international politics, which could make punitive action both too slow and too weak to prevent Iran from making a final dash for the bomb should it so choose.
They also go on to point out that the deal as currently outlined does not appear to sufficiently limit Iran’s research and development efforts. Once the term of the deal expires, the country could emerge with even more powerful and efficient technology ready to be weaponized at the drop of a hat.
But the Secretaries’ key argument, which is in our view the most devastating, has to do with the consequences that even a so-called successful deal would have for regional stability in the immediate future:
Absent the linkage between nuclear and political restraint, America’s traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony. They will increasingly look to create their own nuclear balances and, if necessary, call in other powers to sustain their integrity. Does America still hope to arrest the region’s trends toward sectarian upheaval, state collapse and the disequilibrium of power tilting toward Tehran, or do we now accept this as an irremediable aspect of the regional balance?
This is a line of argument that should be familiar to our readers, as we have taken pains to highlight evidence for it whenever it comes up. For example, as WRM wrote in the weeks before the framework was announced:
[President Obama’s supporters] don’t get the causal connection between the quest for an Iran deal and regional disorder. So caught up are they in the “Negotiations always good, confrontation always bad” worldview that they haven’t come to grips with the reality that in the Middle East, Obama’s regional strategy of withdrawal and accommodation to Iran undermines rather than supports the goal of a nuclear deal.
And Adam Garfinkle has spent much electronic ink arguing that President Obama’s quest for an Iran deal may, paradoxically, yield the very nightmare scenario the President is trying to avoid: a multipolar nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
In any case, the Kissinger/Shultz piece deserves close reading. Given the stature of the authors, these arguments will likely be repeated by smart opponents of the deal in Congress ahead of the June 30 deadline. And beyond that consideration, it strikes us as having the virtue of generally being right.