Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

A tested alternative for Iranian nuclear negotiations

Jerry Stratton, August 12, 2015

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei: “Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, 24 July 2015”; Iran; Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

“On March 21, 2015, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei backed and shouted the phrase ‘Death to America’ while addressing a public gathering in Iran.” (seysd shahaboddin vajedi, CC BY-SA 4.0)

President Obama claims that his administration’s nuclear deal is the only alternative to war. This is a pretty standard debating tactic of the President’s: its his way or some broken-down highway filled with spike-covered reavers, and there’s nothing in between.

In this case, though, the alternatives are probably not that obvious inside the beltway, because they require thinking long-term and thinking about freedom. The obvious non-politico-friendly alternative is to simply wait until a better deal can be negotiated. We are giving Iran a lot in exchange for this deal. If we aren’t getting much of anything in return—if, in fact, Iran is allowed to get as close to nuclear weapons as it wishes without actually touching them, and is allowed to lie about touching them—then why give up that leverage? It may well be useful later.

But there is a third way, besides war and waiting, that has worked in the past. And that is to tie closer relations and/or lessened sanctions to their creating a more open society.

If we require that Iran free their political prisoners, this will make Iran a safer place for the greater voices it has. If we require that Iran stop cracking down on dissidents—cracking down in the old-school way of killing and maiming them—then Iran will in fact be a safer place for the people willing to speak out.

If we require that Iran allow anyone to leave Iran who wants to, Iran’s stranglehold on its dissidents is nearly completely removed.

If we do those simple things—if we believe in the power of freedom to transform—we may well end up with a repeat of the reasonably bloodless revolution that threw down the Soviet Union, as Iran responds to the now visible voices against its tyranny. But even if we aren’t, Iran will be a better place, with more voices, some of whom will end up in government and be more open to negotiating real nuclear reforms. Without Senator Jackson and President Reagan, Gorbachev would not have been Gorbachev.

I meant to write this simply because of the insights I had gained reading Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy. In researching the post, and looking for Iranians blocked from emigrating, I came across Natan Sharansky’s July 28 response to the nuclear agreement:

Today, an American president has once again sought to achieve stability by removing sanctions against a brutal dictatorship without demanding that the latter change its behavior. And once again, outspoken Jews—leaders of the state of Israel, from the governing coalition and the opposition alike—are sounding an alarm. The United States can either appease a criminal regime or stand firm in demanding change in its behavior.

Instead, the President is going the route of Nixon and Kissinger: pretend it’s a separate issue.

But how a country treats its own citizens is a not a separate issue. It tells us how they treat everyone. It tells us how they will treat America. In fact, at least three of Iran’s political prisoners are American citizens.

In fact, if the Iranian leaders are willing to forego billions of dollars in order to maintain political prisoners and keep dissidents from leaving the country, it is nearly a certainty that the Iranian leaders are willing to negotiate in bad faith—and are willing to treat their neighbors as badly as they treat their own citizens. And, because we left ICBMs out of the nuclear negotiations, their neighbors include everyone within reach of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

For many years, I have been asking myself why so many of those who have always lived in liberty do not appreciate the enormous power of freedom. — Natan Sharansky (The Case for Democracy)

In response to Republicans and America must provide an alternative: If America does not provide an alternative to the evils of progressivism gone awry in the world, it is lost.

  1. <- Self-perception freedom