Letter | Don’t sabotage potential progress in Iran

01/30/2014 1:44 PM

01/30/2014 1:46 PM

Since the storming of the American embassy by radical students supporting the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, America and Iran have treated each other as political pariahs.

As Iran, starting in 2003, developed the technical expertise to build a nuclear weapon, the U.S countered with a strategy – financial sanctions – to disrupt Iran’s economy and slow its nuclear progress. It now appears that this approach may have worked. Iran recently elected a leader who is appears less hostile to the West, who sees advantages to economic progress, and who has begun negotiations with the U.S. and other long-standing enemies on nuclear issues.

Is Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new president, playing a game to buy time for clandestine nuclear development? Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, thinks so, and some in our Congress agree. But President Obama and the leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China believe that progress is possible and are moving forward with negotiations.

Certain members of Congress, meantime, are writing legislation to impose further sanctions against Iran, a move that, if successful, would derail the talks and delight Israel. But since President Obama would almost certainly veto such a bill, what is the underlying motivation of those hoping to scuttle the negotiations?

Is it possible that Republicans have nightmares in which these negotiations succeed and thereby give Democrats a boost in upcoming elections? That’s not provable one way or the other, but if Republicans truly believe that Obama is doomed to fail, wouldn’t it be in their interest to lie low and let him take the hit?

What makes the seemingly futile effort a win-win for Republicans is that if their attempt to sabotage negotiations works, they then will blame the Obama administration for its failure and its implied naïveté. While illogical, this allegation would appeal to the Republican base of true believers.

Secretary Kerry and his fellow members of the P5+1 bloc have impressive diplomatic chops, and have made verifiability a bedrock of their negotiations. While success is not certain, what is sure is that if Iran is dissembling, a future round of draconian Western sanctions will cripple their economy.

To me, this argues strongly that the current effort should be encouraged, not subverted. A non-nuclear Iran might bring some stability to a part of the world, which has spun out of control since we deposed Saddam Hussein for a crime he had no part in.

The writer lives in Pawleys Island.

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