We now face a new worst-case scenario if Iran-hawks like Senator Tom Cotton manage to torpedo a nuclear deal with Iran. Proponents of the deal have argued that the Framework agreement was better than expected and that we should be happy if the final deal closely mirrors it while filling in some gaps. Iran gave up more than we expected it to and we are unlikely to get anything more. The hawks have said that the Framework is not good enough. They insist that instead of accepting a Framework-like deal we should simply walk away and maintain sanctions on Iran until Iran knuckles under our demand. Better yet, they argue, we should not just maintain sanctions--we should increase sanctions to get Iran's attention and make them cry "Uncle!"
Proponents of a deal reply that the hawks are engaged in fantasy. The only reason the rest of the world joined us in sanctioning Iran was to get Iran to the bargaining table. The sanctions did exactly what they were supposed to do. But if the United States is seen as responsible for torpedoing a deal then Iran will accuse us of not being serious negotiating partners interested in a peaceful and reasonable resolution of the nuclear issue. The Iranians will walk away from the negotiating table, the rest of the world will blame the U.S. for the collapse of the talks, and the sanctions regime will fall. The predicted collapse of the sanctions regime has been nothing more than a logical conclusion based on suppositions of how our European partners are likely to behave--until now. Now we have evidence that a sanction regime collapse is exactly what will happen. Sir Peter Westmacott, the United Kingdom's Ambassador to the U.S. and Peter Wittig, Germany's Ambassador to the U.S., have both stated that the sanctions regime will probably fall if the U.S. is seen as responsible for killing the deal.
And if the sanctions regime collapses, that leaves us two choices. We can either let Iran's nuclear program proceed without limits and with minimal monitoring. Iran will get a nuclear weapon under this scenario if it decides that it wants one. Or we can go to war with Iran to prevent it from getting a nuke. Tom Cotton thinks this war with Iran will be a cakewalk, but it is likely to be messier than Cotton and his fellow Neocons believe it will be. And attacking Iran is guaranteed to ensure they will decide to go full-speed ahead in getting the bomb. And once they make that decision they will hide their development activities deep underground where it will be very difficult for us to monitor. There is no way for us to prevent them from eventually getting nuclear weapons unless we station our military in Iran to guard inspectors roaming through the country. If you liked the American occupation of Iraq then you'll love our occupation of Iran.
This worst-case scenario has been known all along. Nothing that I've said so far is particularly new. But now the worst-case scenario has become even worse. Actually, it's become MUCH worse. ISIS has now declared that it wants to use the billions of dollars at its disposal to buy a nuclear weapon and USE IT ON THE U.S. ISIS has said that it will try to buy a bomb from Pakistan, though I suspect if Pakistan won't sell them one then they will try to get one from North Korea. The odds that ISIS will be able to execute its plan are low, but this scenario can not be ruled out completely.
And here is where the folly of attacking Iran to prevent it from getting a nuke becomes apparent. Remember we were winning in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2003? We had expelled the Taliban from government and reduced it to relatively minor guerrilla army. And then we took our eyes off the prize and invaded Iraq. We were weakened because our forces were split two ways. Hence, we were unable to fully achieve our goals in either theater.
And now that ISIS has declared its intent to nuke the United States we should be redoubling our effort to defeat it. But if we attack Iran our military will again face a two-front non-proliferation war. Our military efforts will be diverted from ISIS and once again we could come up short in achieving our goals. Only this time the result will be a LOT worse than chaos in Iraq and a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. This time we could be confronted with nukes in the hands of an insane, bloodthirsty ISIS and a highly enraged Iran.
If we can obtain a deal that hews closely to the principles outlined in the Framework agreement then it would be reckless for us to reject it. It would be far wiser for us to use this opportunity to cooperate with Iran in launching coordinated attacks against ISIS.