If everyone in Wyoming knew the facts about the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran, and were not predisposed to oppose it, I believe there’s a good chance a majority would support it.
It’s too late for that to happen, though, for two primary reasons. First, congressional opponents and special interests have already poisoned the well against the deal, damning it long before talks were even completed. Second, the mainstream media has picked up conservative lies and distortions about the pact and peddled them to the public as the truth.
It’s hard to win a public policy debate when politicians trying to save their jobs and many members of the Fourth Estate refuse to address what the agreement will actually do. They also fail to honestly consider what will happen if the deal is rejected by Congress and opponents can override a presidential veto.
The experts who have actually studied the peace agreement declared it’s the best way to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons for many years, and that it would likely ward off a war against Iran by the U.S. and its allies that could have devastating consequences. If it’s rejected, the administration warns, Iran could possess nuclear weapons within a few months.
Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso haven’t gone on record saying they will vote against the historic peace agreement, but their actions leave no doubt that’s their intention. In an effort aimed at derailing diplomatic action, in March they joined 45 other Republican senators in sending an open letter to Iranian leaders. They wrote no matter what deal Iran may make with President Barack Obama, it can easily be changed by Congress and a future presidential administration.
That misguided action drew an irate response from Obama and the Democrats, who charged at a minimum the GOP senators inserted themselves into a foreign policy issue that should be in the hands of the president, not the Senate. Others suggested the Republicans’ unprecedented letter bordered on treason, undermining the president and strengthening the position of Iranian hardliners who do not want peace.
As a member of the Republican Senate majority, Barrasso has helped lead the attack on the nuclear agreement. In the process, like many conservative politicians, he has continually misrepresented safeguards the deal contains to monitor whether Iran abides by the restrictions on its nuclear program. Wyoming’s junior senator has complained Western inspectors were supposed to have 24/7 access to Iran’s nuclear facilities but, he alleges, the nation will now be able to keep inspectors out for up to 24 days.
That’s not true. As Vox.com reported last week, inspectors will have Iran’s declared nuclear sites — uranium mines, uranium plants, centrifuge factories and enrichment sites — under continual monitoring. There will be no inspection waiting period.
If inspectors want to go to a location that is not a declared nuclear site, they can demand access. If Iran objects, it triggers a process in which negotiations begin. If there is no agreement within 14 days, a special international commission has up to seven days to vote on whether to force Iran to comply. The commission includes the U.S. and its European allies, which make up a majority that would presumably use its power to rule against Iran. The country would then have up to three days to open facilities to inspectors.
Combined, that’s the 24-day period that has critics in an uproar. But the process doesn’t have to take that long, and there’s a “snap back” provision that would automatically renew economic sanctions against Iran if it fails to allow inspections.
Even if inspectors did have to wait 24 days, some of the uranium in question has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. It’s ridiculous to think Iran could conceal that it’s working on a nuclear program.
Last week, Fox News and congressional opponents seized on a sensational Associated Press report that the agreement actually allows Iran to conduct its own inspections of suspected nuclear sites. Of course that would be outrageous, but as watchdog Media Matters quickly countered, the claim is not true. An AP reporter looked at an unsigned draft copy of the final agreement and wrote an inaccurate story that was later revised.
In reality, letting Iran supply information to inspectors about previous military activity at Parchin, a suspected nuclear site, was part of the agreement for the U.S. and its allies to lift economic sanctions. It has absolutely nothing to do with the future inspection process under the deal reached in Vienna. NBC News reported that even at Parchin, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors would “be on site to supervise the Iranians at every step of the way.”
Media Matters also reported a growing coalition of nuclear and national security experts endorses the nuclear deal with Iran. Seventy-five members of the nonpartisan Arms Control Association called it a “net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.” The experts praised the agreement as “strong, long-term and verifiable.”
A group of retired U.S. military generals and admirals, meanwhile, said in an Aug. 11 open letter that they support the agreement “as the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from maintaining nuclear weapons.” Republicans almost always listen to the military, but not when it supports Obama.
“America and our allies, in the Middle East and around the world, will be safer when this agreement is fully implemented. … There is no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon,” the military experts concluded.
What’s happening is very similar to when conservatives simply ignore the fact that 97 percent of the world’s leading scientists say climate change is caused by man. Some in Congress contend the public should believe politicians instead of experts whose vocation is to study scientific facts and draw conclusions.
It obviously only furthers the cause of nuclear agreement foes when right-wing media personalities like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh intentionally rile up the public daily by regurgitating misinformation about the deal. Remember the GOP opposition to the Affordable Care Act, when Republican leaders offered no ideas to improve the nation’s health care system? They preferred to scare seniors by talking about non-existent “death panels” rather than propose any real alternatives.
The same thing is happening over the nuclear agreement with Iran. What would Barrasso do instead?
“My answer is a better deal,” he told Fox News. “Go back and make a better deal by increasing the sanctions, not removing them.”
But sanctions clearly haven’t worked to reduce the likelihood Iran will eventually obtain nuclear weapons. Before economic sanctions were imposed, Iran had only a few hundred centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons. Now it has about 19,000, which will be reduced to 6,000 if the deal is approved.
Of course, Barrasso, Enzi and other Senate opponents know no matter what the U.S. does, the other signers of the nuclear agreement — China, Russia and Europe — will end their own sanctions against Iran. Barrasso may desire a better deal that includes sanctions, but since the U.S. can’t act unilaterally when dealing with Iran and must work with its allies, how does he propose improving the agreement already on the table?
For all of the phony outrage they’ve expressed about the president using diplomacy to deal with an enemy instead of starting a war, congressional Republicans are just playing the same obstructionist game they’ve waged against Obama since he took office. Meanwhile, Democrats who plan to vote against the agreement, like Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, are seemingly doing so to appease Israel and keep its campaign donations rolling in.
Columnist Trevor Timm of The Guardian nailed it when he recently wrote that the deal’s opponents “consist almost exclusively of bellwether politicians mugging for the camera and playing into the fears of the constituents they have whipped into a terrified frenzy.”
Whether it’s self-serving politicians, right-wing extremists who salivate at the idea of starting a war in Iran, or members of the media who keep distorting the issue because they’re too lazy to analyze what this agreement means for the security of the world, it will be an uphill battle for Obama to sell to the public what is clearly the best deal that can be reached to save lives.
When you listen to the congressional debates that start next month prior to the vote, ignore the rhetoric, learn the facts and focus on answering one question: Is this deal going to make the world a safer place or not?
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