BECKER: Treaties, Iran, reality, and perceptions

BECKER: Treaties, Iran, reality, and perceptions

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We have a quasi-treaty with Iran. Now what?


WASHINGTON, July 30, 2015 – While Congress debates the nuclear treaty and the impending vote rejecting it, we need to analyze the history of treaties in general, and present the reality of enforcement.

The fundamental issue is trust. We don’t trust the Ayatollah who holds the position of leader of the Iranian people. We get offended when he stands in front of his nation and proclaims, “Death to America.” It appears that Iranian leaders have become obligated to say those words at every political gathering, and America is rightfully distrustful.

When our president stands in front of the American people and proclaims that this treaty will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, our credibility becomes stretched to the incredible. Who can say with authority that Iran does not have a nuclear bomb, and the capability of launching it at Israel, their avowed enemy? The treaty only deters the mass production of nuclear bombs. We also need to verify that they have not already accomplished their goal of mass-producing nuclear bombs, and that they have not acquired bombs and nuclear material from our enemies.

The future production of nuclear bombs is the only subject covered by the treaty. If we don’t trust Iran, and they are set upon death to America, Israel, and any other enemy they choose to attack, the deal is a bad one. We live in a world where a nuclear bomb can carried in a backpack and deployed from anywhere in the world. The reality of this situation supersedes the perception of that reality. The world is not safe, and the only deterrent from Iran’s production of a nuclear bomb, according to the treaty, is trust.

To fully examine the Iran nuclear deal, we need to consider the benefits of it.

Iran has agreed to monitoring of their nuclear facilities. That is a good thing. When Ronald Reagan proclaimed, in reaction to impending nuclear treaties, “Trust, but verify,” his words broadcast the wisdom of reaching treaties between nations. Without a treaty, we have nothing. It is better in every instance to have a verifiable agreement as opposed to no agreement. Nothing at all is never a road to more security.

Our history, and the history of all treaties reached over our human existence, has been dismal. It is far more likely that a treaty will be breached than kept. The benefit of treaties is the delay of conflict, not the elimination of conflict, and we should consider all international agreements in that context.

Consider the treaties reached in the history of the United States. Henry Clay, the Senator from Kentucky who was instrumental in drafting and passing the Missouri Compromise, succeeded in delaying the onset of the Civil War. He became known as the “Great Compromiser”. After his death, we had that war, and his contribution to history has been buried.

Many treaties have been made and broken. All of the treaties made with native Americans in American history were made and broken in the interest of land-grabbing and greed. In the early 1830’s, the Cherokee nation was swindled and relocated from their ancestral homelands during our nation’s first gold rush, and relocated to Oklahoma. Britain’s Chamberlain reached agreements with Hitler in the interest of avoiding war with Germany, but Hitler had no intention of abiding by any agreement that conflicted with his intention of conquering the world.

Treaties are made to be broken.

And so it is that we are on the precipice of reaching another agreement. The duration of the treaty to be approved by Congress is likely to be short. Even if passed, there are many “safeguards” that will render the entire agreement null and void, and we will be in the same situation as two years ago. We are giving Iran a two-year head start, but if we look at the consequences of not reaching an agreement, it is the difference between two years and forever.

The consequences? The election of 2016 is irrelevant to this discussion. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, not in the least. This is world politics, the big ballgame, where we cast party differences aside and make decisions that have world-wide implications.

An agreement is preferable to no agreement every time. All negotiations start with a disagreement. If both sides to a disagreement resolve it, whether it lasts a day or a generation, it is a conflict resolved, if only for a little while. If we prevent the proliferation of slavery, delay the onset of a world war, or avoid the deployment of nuclear weapons, what harm is done by reaching that agreement? You can pick the Iran deal apart, and it certainly will be eviscerated by both parties in Congress, but at the end of the day the vote will be to approve or disapprove.

It is easy to say no. The decision-maker only needs to vote “No”. They are not accountable for the consequences. They won’t be called upon to vote on military buildups, deployment strategies or any of the strategies that accompany shifts in military policy. They can go back to the safe decisions about political re-districting and attending fundraisers. It will then fall into the lap of our Generals, Admirals, and submarine commanders to wipe the threat of Iranian nuclear capability from the face of the earth.

America will be placed in the position of using our military might, the product of more than half of our tax dollars that go into the federal budget, to put up or shut up. We can bomb the hell out of Iran, or let Israel take the first military action. That will likely ignite nuclear war in the Mideast, an eventuality that could spread across the world. From the beginning, the avoidance of nuclear conflict has been the goal of the negotiators, and has been the reality since we saw the effects of two small nuclear explosions on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

When Congress meets to debate the approval of the Iran/US nuclear treaty, they need to put politics aside and consider the benefits of having an agreement with no consequences, or no agreement at all. They are not only deciding a political issue. They are prescribing the future of world politics.

There is one possibility that has not been mentioned: The Senate could disapprove the treaty, President Obama could veto it, the world would applaud the result, and we would live with the agreement until it is broken. Then the process could start all over, or the internet will be full of videos of strategic cruise missile strikes.

In our reality, it all becomes virtual entertainment.

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Mark Becker
Mark E. Becker, Esq. is a mediator and problem-solver resolving more than 5,000 disputes over a career spanning over thirty years with the attitude that all disputes can be settled. An author, Becker's column will focus on resolving our nation’s most urgent issues, some old, but mostly new from outside of the Beltway in the Real America, where most of us live. Learn more about Mark at:, and connect with him on Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, and Twitter (@Markbeckerwrite). To order his books, go to his website or to