By Kat Riddler, Editor-in-Chief

With 42 United States Senators in support of the nuclear arms deal brokered by the administration of President Obama between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, it appears that a promised Presidential veto cannot be overridden. It would take 60 votes in the Senate to end debate and pass a vote of disapproval. What that effectively means is the agreement is a done deal. But with the 2016 Presidential election ramping up the rhetoric, the debate and possible future of perhaps the most major foreign policy agreement of our time is far from over. It will likely be a major point of discussion in the second national Republican Presidential debate on Wednesday of this week (9/16/15).

This should be a particularly important issue for students as the impact of a wrong calculation on either side could further destabilize the Middle East, perhaps lead to a preemptive attack either by Iran on Israel or Israel on Iran, a conflict that would inevitably draw in the United States. It has been a generation since many of our fathers were subject to a national draft during the Vietnam War, while they may have been of college age as well. The type of war we would see in the region – if war broke out between Israel and Iran – would not be over quickly or be waged only from the air. We could see a return of selective service and a tremendous impact on an already fragile world economy. That is why the Iranian Nuclear Agreement is important to each and every one of us, even here in the middle of America.

Here we offer a Point – Counterpoint for the UMSL community. We would like to hear from you. We encourage letters to the editor though we reserve the right to edit for length. We hope the information provided will help you in forming your own opinion or considering the viewpoint of others.

Here are a few facts of what is contained in the Iranian Nuclear Deal:

  1. The U.S. Department of State published its own framework of the Iranian Nuclear Deal entitled: Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program on April 2, 2015 which is the source for this abbreviated list of facts. The full document is available for your review at:
  2. Iran agreed to limit its enrichment capacity and stockpile for a limited time and to not have any other enrichment facilities other than at Natanz. Iran will continue to do research and develop centrifuges within certain parameters. Its underground nuclear enrichment facility at Fordow will be converted to a nuclear technology center.
  3. With regard to nuclear reprocessing, a heavy water facility at Arak will be redesigned to be a heavy water research reactor and will not produce weapon grade plutonium. All spent fuel will be exported so that it cannot be reprocessed by Iran.
  4. Iran agreed to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) procedures and better access to its sites.
  5. Once the IAEA verifies Iran has complied with these commitments, the European Union (EU) will terminate all of its nuclear related sanctions against Iran. The United States will end its secondary nuclear economic and financial sanctions. The united Nations Security Council will then also endorse the agreement and cancel its previous nuclear related sanction resolutions while putting in place some restrictive measures on the Iranian nuclear program.


PRO: Iranian Nuclear Agreement Best Hope For Peace

Without an international agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions, it would only be a matter of time before they had nuclear weapons. Some of the biggest opponents of the deal, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have repeatedly said how close they believe Iran was to developing a nuclear bomb. The sanctions have definitely hurt the Iranian economy but given how long they have been in place, it was doubtful that its continuation would have brought Iran to its knees before they had acquired a nuclear weapon.

Sanctions have not forced the insane North Korean leadership to give up their nuclear weapons, forgo illegal testing, or slow the development of their guided missile program as they try to develop longer range capability to reach the continental United States. They have been isolated from most of the world for decades and their economy is in far worse shape than Iran’s economy.

If sanctions alone are not going to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, then we are faced with Israel’s vow to prevent Iran from getting the bomb as a matter of their national survival. A preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear facility targets would be the most likely response. Given our close relationship with Israel, the United States would be drawn into the ensuing war between Israel and Iran and Iran’s proxy forces of Hezbollah.

If there is any miscalculation as to how far along Iran is in the production of a bomb and one is detonated, Israel has its own nuclear capacity and would use it. Untold millions of innocent civilian on both sides would be slaughtered and a large part of the globe poisoned for generations. In light of this, taking risks in the name of peace is worth it.

Opponents on Capitol Hill should understand that while America is a great nation, it is not the only nation in the world. This agreement was not just reached between the U.S. and Iran but also Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. If we were to continue with our sanctions against Iran, those countries would not. We must remember that being the hold out for sanctions against Cuba for fifty years did not bring desired regime change either.

The religious demagoguery of some of their religious leaders aside, a large portion of the Iranian people wants peace. They want the sanctions lifted so they can participate in the world economy. They are a well-educated society and are less fundamentalist, as well as more secular, than their leaders. Given time, voices of reason are emerging. But we have to establish trust between the two sides. Trust takes time. It also takes verification and constant vigilance. The nuclear deal with Iran gives us time and provides the breathing room it needs right now. It is not perfect, as no deal is perfect for both sides. However, it is the best we have and a little hope in a crazy world.


CON: Iranian Nuclear Agreement Makes World Less Safe

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is cut from the same cloth as the Revolutionary Guard and the radicals that with the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979, instituted an oppressive totalitarian regime of their own, one based on a radical religious fundamentalism. They have pursued an agenda of hatred towards the West, chants of death to America ring in the ears at public events and the regime has made it abundantly clear that the destruction of Israel is one of their main objectives.

They have also been an exporter of state sponsored terror in the Middle East with their support of Hezbollah, Hamas and others. With the lifting of the economic and financial sanctions, Iran will get an infusion of capitol estimated at $70 billion. They could use a large portion of that windfall to further assert themselves and their regional political and military ambitions. Right now the Sunni Arab nations in the Middle East are in crisis with uprisings, terrorism and the ongoing war with ISIS. Iran will take advantage of the situation and is already doing so in Iraq, Syria and the Arabian Peninsula – only now they will be doing so with the new flow of money we are releasing to them.

The agreement reached is not tough enough and relies too heavily on trust. It allows Iran too much leeway in inspections and would allow them to hide continued work towards achieving a nuclear weapon. At best, it may delay their progress towards a bomb, but the agreement is only 15 years in length. If they decide to break the agreement, by many estimates, they would only be about a year away from bomb making capability. Their ambitions are long range and an agreement that does not permanently dismantle their nuclear program, centrifuges and all, is only a stopgap on a road to Iran achieving nuclear weapons’ capability. Iran also has a sophisticated missile producing capability of its own which means they have better delivery systems for nuclear-armed missiles, ones already capable of reaching Israel. This agreement was also the out Russia needed to lift an arms embargo against Iran, leading to a rush in Russian arms producers further modernizing Iran’s already large and well trained military.

Opponents have likened the victory lap being taken by the Obama Administration to the Prime Minister of Great Britain Neville Chamberlain’s reaction to an agreement he believed he had reached with Adolph Hitler on the eve of WWII.   In late September 1938, Chamberlain flew to Munich to meet personally with Hitler. The Nazi leader signed a letter with Chamberlain pledging to forgo greater territorial aims in exchange for annexing a large portion of Czechoslovakia. When Chamberlain returned home, he waved the letter at the cheering crowds and said, “I believe it is peace for our time.” Less than a year later, on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and Great Britain found itself at war, sparking World War II.

The day after an initial six month agreement was announced, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summed up the frustration and worst fears of our strongest ally in the Middle East by saying, “What was reached last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake.” You do not reward a rogue nation for taking a time out.

3rd Place Editorial Writing 2015 MCMA Award Winner Image: Eric Wynen/The Current
3rd Place Editorial Writing 2015 MCMA Award Winner
Image: Eric Wynen/The Current