Scrapping the Iran deal a blow to diplomats, not peace
National Post, 9 May 2018
Diplomats have a weakness, namely to value the reaching of an agreement itself over the purpose the agreement is intended to achieve
The diplomatic class and their labours are necessary for the work of peace and international order. Yet diplomats also have a weakness, namely to value the reaching of an agreement itself over the purpose the agreement is intended to achieve.
Hence the widespread handwringing — in some places hyperventilating — over President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement and reinstate economic sanctions on Iran.
The proper debate is whether the Iranian nuclear deal is/was an effective means to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons. It is a fair criticism of the Obama administration that its eagerness to achieve a diplomatic agreement meant that the content of the agreement became secondary. And last week’s Israeli revelations of Iran’s nuclear secrets underscores the perennial risk of making treaties with tyrants. Will they keep their word? And if they don’t keep their word, are the states who make agreements with them fools?
That is more or less the position that America’s allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia, took on the Iran nuclear deal. America’s president now agrees.
In that context, it is useful to remember diplomatic deals, hailed at the time, which did not achieve what they intended. Consider two examples.
The American-Cuban rapprochement and re-establishment of diplomatic relations was a genuine diplomatic breakthrough. I was inclined to agree at the time; after all, the 50-year American policy of embargo and isolation had not succeeded in relaxing the grip of the Castro brothers on the throat of the Cuban people. So why not try engagement, employing the carrot instead of the stick?
The American-Cuban agreement did allow for greater mobility for Americans, and for money transfers and investment for business. It did not, however, lead to greater liberties for the Cuban people. Indeed, in the year after the agreement there was a tightening of restrictions on political dissidents and religious believers.
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