Source: Celebrating the International Day of Peace, by Gilbert Schramm
Sept. 21 is the United Nation’s International Day of Peace. I hope that people will take time to honor the day. It would be great if peaceminded people had friends and neighbors over and talked honestly about how to sustain the kind of progress represented by President Obama’s deal with Iran. This deal the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) can be the beginning of something much more lasting.
We will always have to struggle for peace and justice : there is no single deal or agreement that will solve every problem. The JPCOA represents real progress, but sadly, the margin by which it was approved was appallingly thin. Although it a great deal for the U.S., almost 60 senators opposed it. Of even deeper concern is the reasoning that both opponents of the JCPOA, and even some reluctant supporters, have put forward to explain their positions.
Of our local representatives , Kurt Schrader said, “I, like many others, do not feel that the odds are in favor of Iran complying, given their past abuses.” Sen. Je• Merkley said, “We must step up our e• orts to curb Iran’s destabilizing influence in the region and its support for terrorism .” Sen. Ron Wyden called the Iranians “duplicitous and untrustworthy.” He was even heard claiming that “Iran wants to destroy us.” Outright opponents of the deal like Mike Huckabee recently called Iranians “animals,” and Carly Fiorina called Iran “the source of most of the evil in the Middle East today.” Yet none of this distrust and racist demonization is really supported by facts.
The most under-reported , yet important implication of the recent negotiations is that almost every unresolved piece of “evidence” that Iran ever had a nuclear weapons program at all has basically been refuted and discredited as baseless. Our lawmakers seem unable to grasp this most basic point. Iranians haven’t been “duplicitous,” there were no “past abuses,” etc. Throughout this whole ordeal, Iran has been peacefully pursuing its sovereign right to have a peaceful nuclear program under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency a right guaranteed by a treaty and international law created largely by the U.S.
The almost complete exoneration of Iran on the nuclear issue has been overlooked in favor of discussion of future verification and other details because the entire intelligence and defense establishment , remembering how they were dead wrong on Iraq, is reluctant to admit that their assessments of Iran for the last 35 years have also been wrong. Over the years, Iranian involvement in a long list of terrorist acts has been discredited. Today, Iran and its Hezbollah and Syrian allies are the frontline “boots on the ground” in the battle against ISIS. They are hardly “destabilizing” the region.
The di•erence between true supporters of the deal and its opponents is simple: the former make cogent, rational arguments that the deal is tough, e• ective diplomacy, and is based on verification of Iranian behavior. They note that there is no other option for discouraging Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and that war would be a tragic mistake. These are facts.
In stark contrast, opponents (and reluctant supporters ) of the deal make arguments based predictions of Iranian behavior that are based on religious, racial and ethnic stereotypes of the worst kind, on misrepresentations of deal itself, and on issues that have nothing to do with nuclear weapons. Their arguments are marked by the belief that Iranians are simply not rational actors in spite of all the evidence that says they are.
The JPCOA strengthens the hand of Iranian reformists . That’s why, when the deal was announced, Iranians celebrated in the streets in numbers that dwarfed the occasional hardline chanters of anti-U .S. slogans. The majority of the people in Iran want peace with the U.S. and progressive reform and can recognize progress when they see it. The American response to the JPCOA, on the other hand, shows how much work that we American peacemakers and educators have left to do in terms of getting Americans to sincerely embrace peace with Iran. If we can’t do that, we’ll all need to ask ourselves if we can successfully engage with all the other challenges to peace and justice that confront us here and abroad and whether, in fact, American democracy is truly worth emulating.
Gilbert Schramm has lived and worked in the Middle East, and studied the region for more than 30 years. He is currently a resident of Newport.