Iranian nuclear accord: Good or bad?

Published 5:30 am Thursday, October 19, 2017

Two years ago, the United States, England, Russia, France, China, Germany and the European Union reached an agreement with Iran that precludes Iranian development of nuclear weapons and allows expert outside inspectors to verify compliance with the agreement. The terms of the agreement allow Iran to operate nuclear reactors for medical use and for generation of electric power. The accord prohibits development of nuclear weapons. For specific example, nuclear weapons require uranium that is refined to a purity of 85 percent or greater. Iran’s uranium refinement limit is 3.67 percent purity. The agreement addresses only nuclear activity. It does not address any other aspect of Iranian governance or activity. There seems to be general agreement that the accord is working as intended. So, who objects to the accord?

Paul Danahar writing in his book The New Middle East reports that Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and his hardline supporters believe that “some very big bombs” should be dropped on Iran, and they would like for the United States to do the bombing. They are joined in that belief by Saudi Arabia. Muslim countries in the Middle East compete for influence. There is competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia for influence in the region. That competition is aggravated by the fact that the Saudi’s are Sunni Muslims, and the Iranians are Shia Muslims. Additionally, the Saudi’s are Arabs, and the Iranians are not. The Israelis and the Saudis campaigned against the accord.

America’s massive military power makes it seem that use of force is the easy solution. But in a complex world, unforeseen repercussions abound. Our invasion of Iraq in 2003 is an example.

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Iranians once admired Americans and America, the only Western nation they respected. In the early 1950s, Iranians elected a democratic leader. The British had been pumping Iranian oil for decades and refused to pay reasonable royalties for the oil. Iran expelled the British and took control of the oil fields. The British, weakened from World War Two, asked the U.S. to help them recover the Iranian oil. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency engineered the overthrow of the democratically elected Iranian government in 1953. The Iranians felt betrayed by the Western government they respected. The U.S. installed the Shah of Iran. The Shah cooperated with America and purchased a vast amount of U.S. military equipment. He was widely touted in America, appearing on prominent news magazine covers, visiting leading college campuses and the White House. But the Shah also established a secret police unit, with some U.S. help, that dealt harshly with Iranian citizens and eliminated his political opponents. He was overthrown in 1979. The Iranians, remembering the 1953 insult, seized the American embassy and held the embassy staff hostage for more than a year. The relationship between Iran and the U.S. was bitter for the next 30 years but began to improve when new moderate leaders came to power in Iran. That change led to the current nuclear accord.

Israel and Pakistan are the two Middle Eastern countries that possess nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s focus is India, their favorite enemy.

Jack Stevenson is now retired from military service. He served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee. He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA).