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Three fallacies of the six power agreement

Reader comment on item: Additional U.S. Sanctions on Iran?

Submitted by Stu Fagin (United States), Jan 13, 2014 at 00:43

Dr Pipes deserves credit for venturing into the belly of the beast. He presents a strong defense of sanctions generally, and more specifically the senate efforts to hard-wire the reinstatement of sanctions if Iran is viewed as not living up to its end of the six-power agreement. However, given three key fallacies of the agreement, the senate efforts may be moot. These three fallacies are:

Fallacy 1 - if Iran does not live up to its end of the bargain, then the sanction regime can always be reinstated. In fact the sanctions, as they existed prior to the agreement, have been permanently vaporized. The arduous, long-term, diplomatic efforts expended to institute the sanction regime have now been completely squandered. This is because over the next six months the major West European powers, Russia and China will all pursue commercial ties with Iran that they will not undo (See this WSJ report). Russia will be particularly unwilling despite the strong personal bond Obama has forged with Putin. Any reconstituted sanctions will be far less effective than the pre-existing ones because they will be undercut by these commercial arrangements. (It is interesting to note the similarity of the fallacy here with that used in selling Obamacare. In both cases we are told that the worst case scenario is a return to the status quo; "If you like your doctor….". In fact, in both cases the pre-existing system is destroyed.)

Fallacy 2 - The first step to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons is negotiations. Actually, negotiations are a second step. The first step is that the Iranian leadership discard their ambition for nuclear weapons, and the associated ambition to destroy the state of Israel. These ambitions are intrinsic to the Iranian leadership and will not be shed during negotiations. Given this, any agreements that the Iranians conclude would be those that bring them nearer to realizing these ambitions, not further. For the Iranian nation to discard these ambitions it must first discard its leadership. This point dovetails with Pipes' insight; you do not negotiate with enemies, you negotiate with former enemies.

Fallacy 3 - This agreement makes Israel safer. In fact, this agreement makes it far harder for Israel to defend itself. It makes impossible a diplomatic solution by obliterating the sanction regime that gave it any possibility. A military attack is the sole means of preventing a nuclear Iran but now Israel has to carry it out alone and in the face of a diplomatic initiative being carried out by its potential allies.

So how will the six month agreement period play out? (1) Iranian commercial ties with the Western Europe, Russia and China will be strengthened. (2) Iran realizing that there is no possible return to the old sanction regime will more flagrantly violate any restrictions to their nuclear program and will refuse to adhere to any new ones. (3) this behavior will be deemed "unhelpful" by the Obama administration. However, they will recognize "progress" somewhere and so argue against any reinstitution of sanctions. They will try to extend the agreement protocols through the 2014 and perhaps the 2016 elections (4) Iran will continue development to the point where breakout is unpreventable.

The only possible disruption of this progression is an Israeli attack.

WSJ link: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304477704579254283317930014

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