Devils and Details

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Mere minutes after last Tuesday’s announcement of the nuclear deal struck with Iran – well before anyone could possibly have read its 159 dense pages of highly technical details – the usual suspects were busy weighing in.

Organizations, leaders and politicians with long-standing animus toward President Obama extended their hostility to the deal, which they characterized as a spineless capitulation to a rogue regime.  And knee-jerk defenders of Mr. Obama (a group that some imagine includes me, but doesn’t) heralded the agreement as the best thing since bagels.

Over ensuing days, open-minded observers waited patiently until experts had had a chance to carefully absorb the agreement’s terms and render their judgments. Alas, unanimity there wasn’t.

Some found the inspections regimen less than ideal, the sanctions phase-out too lenient, the preservation of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure too frightening, the term of the agreement too short.  They warned of how the economic impact of the sanctions’ lifting will allow Iran to finance its non-nuclear murderous mischief throughout the Middle East; and wondered how a nation whose leaders have never paid any homage to honesty can be trusted to not cheat on its pledges.

Others sang the praises of Iran’s agreement to convert its infamous and impervious Fordo uranium enrichment facility, buried deep underground, into a closely monitored research lab; the requirement that Iran dilute or convert its stockpile of near 20% uranium so that it cannot be enriched to the 90% level required for a nuclear weapon; its agreement to render inoperable over two-thirds of the 19,000 centrifuges it has installed; the requirement that the country’s stockpile of uranium gas be reduced from some 10,000 kilograms to 300; its commitment to not enrich any uranium above 3.67 percent; and the disabling of the Arak facility from producing plutonium.

Other elements of the agreement were less open to simple judgments of “good” or “bad.”  Happily, inspectors will be tracking Iran’s uranium from the time it is mined to ensure that it is not enriched beyond the agreement’s terms; and fiber-optic seals, sensors and cameras will be keeping constant tabs on every known nuclear facility; all such sites and their inventories will be closely monitored by inspectors.  The movements of scientists and nuclear workers, moreover, will be tracked.   And the deal also gives inspectors the right to visit any other suspicious sites “anywhere in the country.”  But it also gives Iran 24 days to comply with such special requests.

Iran, indeed, could cheat.  But doing so would require the building of a covert enrichment plant, the secret procurement of uranium and centrifuges and, even more improbably, the transfer of scientists from known facilities to the covert one, despite the ongoing monitoring of the personnel’s movements.

To some, that is reassurance enough.  Others, including Israeli leaders, are less sanguine, to put it mildly.

“You have a large country, with a significant military,” President Obama himself averred about Iran last Wednesday, “that has proclaimed that Israel shouldn’t exist, that has denied the Holocaust, that has financed Hezbollah.  There are very good reasons why Israelis are nervous about Iran’s position in the world…”

But, the President contends – and it is a contention worth pondering – that the alternative, namely no deal, would be worse.  Sanctions, after all, have not prevented Iran from increasing its 164 spinning centrifuges in 2006 to its current 19,000.  It doesn’t take a nuclear rocket scientist to imagine what the mullahs would choose to do in the absence of an agreement.

It was always a wishful fancy that a “good deal” would mean the end of all Iranian nuclear activity.  No country has ever been forced to forgo nuclear development for medical or energy purposes.  The notion that the current hubristic leadership of Iran would, even under continued sanctions pressure, ever accept that humiliating “first” status made for a lovely dream, but a dream it was.

By definition, a deal means a compromise.  The U.S and its allies would have loved to end Iran’s nuclear program altogether, entirely and forever.  Iran would have loved to maintain its headlong rush to develop, and use, nuclear weapons.  Those, though, were necessarily starting positions, not some goals in a zero-sum game.  In the end, the evil player saved some face and won a pile of money.  The good one got up to 10, 15 or 25 years (depending on the provision; and, for some provisions, even longer) of likely effective prevention of the malignant entity’s malevolent designs.

Bad deal?  Maybe, maybe not.  But, as the numerous tragedies associated with Tisha B’Av demonstrate, it’s certainly a bad world.

With our mitzvos, though, and our tefillos and our mourning of our galus, we can change that, and merit the Geulah Shleimah. May it arrive quickly.

© 2015 Hamodia