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Column: Iran deal an important step toward peace in the Middle East

The Obama administration has proposed a solution, however controversial, that could serve as the first breakthrough with Iran since the crisis of 1979.

Fear, distrust and suspicion have defined Iran’s relationships with the U.S. and Europe and have plagued the brief attempts at reconciliation for the past several decades. The economic sanctions and general lack of diplomatic relations, though, have not been without cause.

Iran has long been considered a state sponsor of terrorism and the country’s continued affiliations with the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria have done nothing to improve that reputation.

As it was revealed that the U.S. had finally reached terms on an agreement with Iran, outcries of both support and dissent began to arise from all regions of the political arena.

Republicans have been mostly unsupportive while Democrats have generally been in favor of the deal. Within all of the rhetoric stands an attempt at peace that will greatly benefit some, but could possibly be a detriment to others. That is to say, the deal isn’t perfect—but both parties are forced to make sacrifice in any negotiation.

The issue with the current deal isn’t that it doesn’t do enough, but rather that it focuses too specifically on one particular issue—Iran’s capability of obtaining a nuclear weapon—leaving other concerns unaddressed.

The nuclear agreement has been effective, however. The U.S. effectively prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon by forcing the removal of most of its nuclear infrastructure and submit to regular inspections conducted by scientists and military personal.

The most prominent argument against the deal states that, because some of Iran’s nuclear facilities will remain intact, Iran could quickly build a weapon after sanctions are lifted.

As NPR writes, though, “If it honors the deal, Iran would not have the kind of missile material it needs for a nuclear bomb, but at the same time, it does receive a nod from the international community that it can indeed keep a non-military nuclear program going.”

Rather than enabling the nation, the joint agreement would only allow for enough nuclear material to sustain peaceful reactors, which are used in places like power plants.

According to the White House, “Iran has committed to extraordinary and robust monitoring, verification and inspection,” at essentially any time the International Atomic Energy Agency schedules a visit.

In short, the deal will more than likely make it much more difficult for Iran to build a nuclear bomb. And, based on numbers in a House of Representatives and Senate that frequently vote along party lines, it is likely that the agreement will soon become law.

The faultiness of the treaty lies not in what the deal does for the nuclear program, but what it doesn’t do to mitigate Iran’s influence in other spheres of the Middle East.

Iran has been one of the most notorious supporters of the regime in Syria and contributes regularly to the fight against the Syrian rebels.

The nation stands to gain over $100 billion if the sanctions are lifted, and according to The Atlantic, “Even if [Iran] … uses, say, only 3 percent of that total, it will have $3 billion more to prop up the Syrian regime and other regional allies and proxies.”

The U.S. hopes that Iran will instead choose to utilize the new funding for peaceful means, like infrastructure and betterment of citizens’ lives, but the deal offers no provisions to keep Iran from funneling the money into foreign wars.

It’s been argued by The Atlantic that ISIS’s formation and success has largely been a result of the al-Assad regime’s brutality in the Syrian civil war. Lifting sanctions could further destabilize the Middle East.

At the same time, however, Iran’s people are suffering. The economy is facing serious struggles and human rights would stand to improve significantly if the deal is approved, as evidenced by—as the Cairo Review of Global Affairs states—the fact that “some of the most vociferous defenders of a nuclear deal with the West are Iranian civil society and human rights activists.”

The general population of Iran also greatly favors a deal with the U.S. and its allies, meaning it’s likely the Iranian regime could choose to help the people rather than fund al-Assad’s army.

The bottom line is that Iran has consistently remained unpredictable and could choose to act in a number of ways if the likely approval of the nuclear agreement removes international sanctions.

Yet, even though the deal is not perfect, the benefits of dismantling a potential nuclear threat while also strengthening the economy of the Middle East, outweigh the cons.

It is time to move past the fear, distrust, and suspicion to work cooperatively toward peace in the Middle East.


Follow Cooper Temple on Twitter.


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