by Ali Gharib
Those opposing the Iran deal often lead off their objections with a caveat: they don’t think the alternative to the nuclear accord signed this week in Vienna is war. I happen to think it probably is. I put it this way: the alternative(s) to this deal puts us back on the path to confrontation. But, that said, I understand why opponents of the deal want to make like they’re not warmongering.
I was nonetheless taken aback by a column in Politico by Robert Satloff, the WINEP head. Satloff started off his piece by writing that he hasn’t made up his mind about the nuclear deal. After that, his column seems aimed wholly at bolstering the aforementioned caveat: that congressional rejection of the deal need not lead to war. But Satloff goes even farther. Check out this conclusion, with my emphasis:
In my view, the only war that may ensue from a Congressional vote of disapproval is a war of words between our legislative and executive branches, eventually adjudicated by the Supreme Court. In other words, the worst-case scenario will be business as usual in Washington.
Talk about overstating your case! I sincerely hope Satloff doesn’t believe what he’s writing here, because if he does he ought to have his analyst card taken away, not to mention his position atop a D.C. think tank.
If critics and opponents of a deal want to argue that war is not an inevitability of Congress rejecting the nuke deal, they should go ahead and make that case. But I don’t know how anyone who was awake during the period from 2010 to 2012 thinks that the “worst-case scenario” of forsaking the deal in hand today would be bickering in Washington.
Satloff might be right that congressional rejection of a deal won’t lead to Iran ramping up their nuclear program. Maybe, as Satloff says, the Iranians will simply understand that Obama has his hands tied (I doubt it). “Does [Iran] chuck its enormous diplomatic achievements in Vienna for a mad dash toward a bomb?” says Satloff. “Highly unlikely.”
Agreed, that’s highly unlikely, because they’ve not undertaken a “mad dash toward a bomb” at all. But over the last decade they have significantly advanced their nuclear program! Personally, I think that if Congress scuttles a deal, Iran will most likely go back to its pre-November 2013 modus operandi: systematically increasing its nuclear capabilities. (Satloff, incidentally, argued against the 2013 interim deal by distorting it, until he came around to it just before the final accord was singed.) If my likely scenario plays out, what’s to stop the likelihood of war from ticking up again?
Not only does Satloff not answer this question, he renders it entirely moot. It’s not, for Satloff, that war isn’t likely, it’s that war isn’t even possible! That’s the only way one can interpret his remark that the “worst-case scenario” will be a “war of words between our legislative and executive branches.” Good lord, how does this pass as serious analysis?