The moral case for ending America’s cold war with Iran

Peter Beinart writes: The debate over a final nuclear deal with Iran can be mind-numbingly technical. To what percentage will Tehran be allowed to enrich uranium? What rules will govern inspections of its nuclear sites? Which sanctions will be lifted and how?

But to a large extent, that debate misses the point. Yes, an agreement may contain Iran’s nuclear program somewhat. Yes, it could make the program more transparent. But deal or no deal, Iran will be a threshold nuclear power, able to build a nuke relatively quickly whenever it wants. (Attacking Iran, according to experts like former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin, would only speed that process up). One day, I suspect, the people obsessing about the details of an Iranian nuclear deal will look a bit like the people who obsessed about the details of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. in 1987. In retrospect, what mattered wasn’t the number of ballistic and cruise missiles each side dismantled. What mattered was ending the cold war.

When the cold war ended, America and the Soviet Union stopped viewing every third-world regime as a chess piece in their global struggle. They realized that by fueling civil wars in countries like Angola and Nicaragua, they were wasting money and subsidizing murder. Once the world’s superpowers scaled back their arms sales and began urging their former proxies to reach political agreements, some of the world’s most horrific wars stopped.

Obviously, U.S.-Iranian relations today differ in many ways from U.S.-Soviet relations in the late 1980s. But today, as then, the two sides are waging a cold war that is taking a horrifying toll on the people whose countries have been made battlefields. One hundred and thirty thousand Syrians have already died. More than 2 million are displaced. Many are at risk of starvation. Polio is breaking out. The best thing the United States can do for Syrians, by far, is to reach a nuclear deal that ends its cold war with Iran. [Continue reading…]

[Note: Two million “displaced” is incorrect. There are over 2.3 million Syrians as refugees who have fled the country, while another 6.5 million are internally displaced.]

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