The Field Guide has taken a hard line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Iran cannot be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon, and US military force should be applied, as a last resort, to prevent it. But reciprocally, this means that any prospective deal with Iran must be pursued to the fullest, given the alternative.
A deal with Iran isnt just about blocking its path to a nuclear weapon. It should be seen as part of a larger plan to integrate Iran, politically and economically, back into the community of nations. The removal of sanctions will lead to the considerable enrichment of Iranians, raise many from poverty, and expand the ranks of its middle-class and wealthy. It will create and strengthen ties across borders, between Iranians and economic actors in other countries.
In the long-term, as a populace grows in wealth, political actors will become more wary of pursuing policies that degrade living standards. This dynamic will prove a far better safeguard against war than the agreement itself. When it was announced that a framework for a deal had been struck, people in Tehran spontaneously took to the streets in celebration – a fact not missed by Iran’s rulers, who are already under pressure to reach an agreement. Should a final deal be reached, and sanctions be lifted, the pressure to uphold it will only increase over time as Iranians grow more prosperous.
Even the world’s poorest countries can readily develop nuclear weapons under the right conditions. Governments like North Korea’s persist with little internal resistance because they control virtually all of the country’s resources. Sanctions only reinforce the status quo, because they undermine industry, which naturally rises up as a counter to centralized state power. By comparison, totalitarian regimes like those in Iran and China will inevitably yield power to an increasingly affluent populace, by the same historical processes that brought democracy to places as diverse as England, France, the US, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
And this is why the lifting of sanctions should not be seen as a point of weakness for any prospective Iran deal, but as the key to long-term peace and security. Of course, any deal must provide for inspectors’ unfettered access to sites of interest. And the West must retain the power to reimpose economic sanctions should Iran fall out of compliance; and also to impose sanctions in response to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism. While a deal is to the mutual advantage of all parties, it should be based on verifiability, not trust. But over the long haul, the deal will become self-sustaining, as international trade and shared prosperity make war too expensive to fathom.
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