Congressman Chris Van Hollen has issued a lengthy statement assessing his view of the terms of the proposed deal negotiated by the U.S. and other nations with Iran. Key points:
In my view, opponents of the agreement have failed to demonstrate how we will be in a better position if Congress were to block it. Without an agreement, the Iranians will immediately revert to their status as a threshold nuclear weapons state. In other words, they immediately pose the threat that Prime Minister Netanyahu warned about in his U.N. speech. At the same time, the international consensus we have built for sanctions, which was already starting to fray, would begin to collapse entirely. We would be immediately left with the worst of all worlds – a threshold nuclear weapons state with diminished sanctions and little leverage for the United States.
I disagree with the view that we can force the Iranians back to the negotiating table to get a better deal. All of our European partners have signed on to the current agreement. Consequently, the U.S. would be isolated in its quest to return to negotiations. And in the unlikely event that we somehow returned to negotiations, the critics have not presented a plausible scenario for achieving a better agreement in a world where fewer sanctions means less economic pressure.
The bottom line is that if Congress were to block the agreement and the Iranians were to resume nuclear enrichment activities, the only way to stop them, at least temporarily, would be by military action. That would unleash significant negative consequences that could jeopardize American troops in the region, drag us into another ground war in the Middle East, and trigger unpredictable responses elsewhere. Moreover, the United States would be totally isolated from most of the world, including our Western partners. The folly of that go-it-alone military approach would be compounded by the fact that such action would only deal a temporary setback to an Iranian nuclear program. They would likely respond by putting their nuclear enrichment activities deeper underground and would likely be more determined than ever to build a nuclear arsenal.
As it happens, I agree fully with what Van Hollen has said. The idea that there is some mythical “better deal” out there if we only act tough and keep saying no, is a fantasy. Those who hold most firmly to this pretend view of the world are the foreign policy idiots who’ve screwed up pretty much everything over the past 30 years, from the end of the Cold War to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism to the nutty belief that invading Iraq would usher in a new era of American hegemony in the Middle East. They have no credibility. There’s no such thing as a perfect deal, but this deal is as good as we could have hoped for under all the circumstances.