Despite its obvious weaknesses, and undaunted by the usual hyperbole of the Obama administration and its bearers, beaters, and apologists, led by John (“unbelievably small”) Kerry, I think the Geneva agreement over the Iranian nuclear program is progress. Habitual readers will recall that I had effectively given up on this administration doing anything except, to conflate phrases of FDR and Mao Tse-tung, “stand idly by with folded arms” while the ayatollahs seeded the topography of Iran with launchers loaded with nuclear-tipped missiles. Of course, this would have led to similar arms in the hands of the Saudis, Egyptians, and Turks, which, with Iran, Pakistan, and Israel, would have made the Middle East a dense forest of nuclear missiles aimed heavenwards on their launchers, but angled at each other. At that point, a nuclear exchange would be practically inevitable, even if it were initiated by one of the Muslim countries in the region tacitly allowing a terrorist group to deliver a suitcase bomb in a container ship and then unctuously claiming not to have known anything about it (much as Mullah Omar, then the ruler of Afghanistan, did after the 9/11 attacks). The failed state is the refuge of the enemies of civilized, or even just powerful, countries, as it affords the world’s most odious people the excuse of claiming no direct responsibility for the outrages launched from such places, e.g., terrorism in Sudan or piracy in Somalia.
While the Geneva agreement relaxes sanctions, especially on petroleum and petrochemical products and precious metals, and will bring a gush of hard currency that the Iranian theocracy may be assumed likely to use mischievously (i.e., for criminal purposes), that freshet of economic stimulus will be addictive to many Iranians who are not enjoying their present threadbare economic condition, which is not entirely palliated by the knowledge that those who claim charge of their immortal Islamic souls are close to being able to trigger mutual nuclear incineration with designated impious regimes.
Public opinion doesn’t count for much in Iran, as the brazenly fraudulent re-election of the unlamented lunatic Ahmadinejad showed. But it may have some weight in this case, especially since those who will profit most from the relaxation of sanctions are always with such states the biggest crooks, as well as being those who are, by virtue of their prosperity, the closest to, or highest in, government. It is conceivable that it will prove the best of both worlds for the well-swaddled Frankenstein Monster in Tehran: It enables Iran to re-enter the world in commercial terms, while retaining the ability to keep the world at the edge of its chair with an early capacity to finish nuclear weapons. And Tehran can claim to have prevailed upon the Great Powers (such as they now are) to climb down and relax their sanctions.
The fact that China, Russia, and the three leading countries of the EU are all involved strikes down the ability of the more venal of the important countries to claim that this deal was exclusively American in origin, and somehow justifies the use of “smart sanctions” instead of the actually enacted sanctions. (“Smart sanctions” was the French euphemism, prior to the Iraq War, for France’s making rich deals with Saddam while claiming to be keeping its sanctions end up). If the ayatollahs slap all of them in the face and begin enriching uranium again, or pursuing a plutonium bomb, all six of the countries will be affronted; it won’t merely be a case of the Iranians’ thumbing their nose at Washington and rejoicing in the popular intercontinental sport of slapping Obama, Kerry, and Susan Rice around.
While the agreement is for six months, the momentum to continue it will be considerable. A new imposition of sanctions would be more solid and collegial than before, given that the Chinese and Russians had not really joined in the sanctions that are now being relaxed. And the fact that France rejected the earlier draft agreement as just Obamaist flimflam and thinly disguised surrender to Tehran augurs well that it will be quite robust if Iran backslides. France led the world into Libya and prevented unimaginable horrors in Mali. The French have their failings, but if they determine either that something is in their interest or that it really would be inexcusable for moral reasons not to do it and it can actually be done without excessive risk — as in bombing Qaddafi or subduing the Malian terrorists with a small contingent of Legionnaires, Poles and Germans as most of them are — they will not be distracted with Anglo-Saxon humbug about the legal niceties.