Two Cheers for the Iran Agreement
By Sheldon Richman
July 16, 2015 "Information
The nuclear agreement with Iran is good for two reasons: it reduces
the chance of war, and it promises relief from sanctions for the
Although American officials still say that
war is an option, the chance has now shrunk. Even Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that his military alone cannot
deal a death blow to Iran. For that he needs America, and he’s far
less likely to find a willing partner now.
That the Iranians will have sanctions lifted is something all humane
people will welcome. President Obama
says the sanctions “crippled the Iranian economy…. Their economy
has been cratering as a consequence of the sanctions.” But he is
wrong. “Economy” is an abstraction; it cannot be crippled or
cratered. What has been crippled and cratered are the lives of
innocent Iranians, who have had a difficult time obtaining food and
medicines. The sanctions regime is a form of warfare against
noncombatants. Moreover, as Gareth Porter
shows, it did not even achieve what Obama says it was intended
The good that will come out of this agreement cannot be overstated.
The radically diminished prospect for war -- which would set the
Mideast aflame and inflict hardship on the rest of the world as well
-- and the improvement in the everyday lives decent Iranians are
causes for rejoicing.
But the agreement has a significant downside too, in that it
reinforces American hegemony. It does so by the very fact that the
U.S. government is regarded by the media and others as the
legitimate prosecutor, judge, and probation officer of Iran's
government. The U.S. government, of course, commands overwhelming
military power, and in that respect alone it has the ability to
impose demands on others. But that does not mean an American
president has the moral authority to do so.
By what standard of a morality may a government make demands on
others when it has wreaked death and destruction on countless
societies with its military might, including the dropping of two
atomic bombs on innocent Japanese noncombatants; launched wars of
aggression; supported some of the worst dictators in recent times;
made possible the use of death squads and other forms of terror;
tortured people; overthrown governments (including Iran’s in 1953)
in order to install puppet regimes; underwritten aggressive wars
(such as Iraq’s war, complete with chemical weapons, against Iran in
the 1980s; Israel's against Lebanon, which spawned Hezbollah; and
now Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen); facilitated or waged covert,
proxy, and cyber wars (e.g., against Iran); and backed the
occupation of innocent people’s land (most relevantly, Israel’s
occupation of Palestine through ethnic cleansing and military
conquest, which spawned Hamas)?
Iran never threatened the United States or Israel. It has not tried
to build a
nuclear bomb, and even if it were to do so, the weapon would be
of no value except perhaps as a deterrent. Yet the nuclear-armed
United States, and its ally Israel -- the Mideast’s nuclear
monopolist -- haughtily presume to tell Iran what it may and may not
do. The system of state sovereignty we suffer under is illegitimate,
but as long as it exists, the U.S. government will only cause mayhem
by violating the “sovereignty” of other nations. Under prevailing
rules, Iran is a sovereign nation, so the U.S. government should
have no more authority to demand that Iran open itself to
inspections of its military and scientific facilities than Iran has
to make that demand of the U.S. government. (Actually, maybe that
wouldn’t be a bad thing.)
It’s especially outrageous for Israel, which has aggressed against
its neighbors, to stand in judgment of Iran. Iran signed the nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty and was subject to inspections before the
latest negotiations. Israel will not sign the treaty. It won’t even
admit what has long been known: that it has hundreds of nuclear
weapons, which were built with smuggled components thanks to the
connivance of law-breaking American officials and supporters.
Israel, like the United States, also opposes making the Mideast a
nuclear-free zone, which Iran supports.
So lift a glass to the agreement. But let's not rest until the
American hegemon is caged.
Sheldon Richman keeps the blog "Free
Association" and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of
the Center for a Stateless Society.
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