What really struck me about the early coverage of this announcement is that there was practically no mention of the other terrible things that Iran is apparently free to continue doing without incurring the wrath of the West. I guess as long as Tehran doesn't fight the US on inspections, they'll be allowed to continue to sponsor groups and acts of terror that kill and maim citizens of the US and allied countries. I realize I'm engaging in a bit of hyperbole here, but only a little - throughout the talks with Iran it has appeared that negotiators have focused solely on the country's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ignored the rest. It's understandable that the pursuit of nuclear capabilities was at the top of the agenda, but why should Tehran get a free pass on everything else?
I'd like to see a real dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program through diplomacy as much as anyone rise, but when the deal made is one that focuses more on removing technical capabilities and less on deterring the underlying aggression behind the program, an important opportunity is lost. The message that Tehran should have taken away from this process is that belligerence and genocidal threats will not be tolerated - not that the only thing that counts is the number of centrifuges you have and what their stated purpose is. If the leaders of Iran walk away thinking that this was a matter of technical ability and not one of the moral calculus modern statehood demands, it will only be a matter of time before they turn their attention once again to acquiring nuclear weapons, in the meantime using conventional forces and political repression to terrorize anyone they can, at home and abroad.
Over the next few months the world will be watching Iran closely to see how it behaves and whether or not those in charge comply with both the letter and the spirit of whatever final agreement is reached. If they do, I suppose this would be one kind of progress, but the world should demand much more - at the end of the day it's not the centrifuges spinning that represent the ultimate threat to peace and stability, but the ideology and attitude which seeks to direct the products of this process toward destructive ends. Ultimately it is this attitude, this worldview, that needs to be dispensed with. How we can achieve this goal is anybody's guess, but a deal that ignores this deeper issue may prove, in the end, to be no deal at all.
Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2015.