Opinion A Bad Deal with Iran Is Better than None

Iran cannot be a trusted partner with its support for terrorists, a dire human rights record and it's denial of Israel's right to exist. But demonizing the country is not a viable policy. It's time for the West to reach a nuclear deal with Tehran.

Neogtiators in Lausanne are hoping to reach an agreement on the parameters of a nuclear deal with Iran before midnight on Tuesday.

Neogtiators in Lausanne are hoping to reach an agreement on the parameters of a nuclear deal with Iran before midnight on Tuesday.

It is hard to believe that Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei can agree on anything these days. But there is one thing all three have uttered, as we enter the final stages of nuclear negotiations in Lausanne: "No deal is better than a bad deal." But the good deal, bad deal rhetoric disguises the real situation. The fact is that there are no alternatives for either side: Forgoing a deal with Iran is not an option. Even a bad deal is better than no deal.

What would happen if the P5+1 and Iran did not reach a deal? In the absence of an agreement, Iranian centrifuges will keep running with utmost certainty. The international community would be left without options for oversight and influence, and the international non-proliferation regime would suffer heavy damage. Further nuclear proliferation in the Middle East would no longer be a distant specter but could soon become a grim reality.

Suffocating Logic

The increasingly suffocating logic of sanctions is that they are the only effective means available to keep Iran's nuclear ambitions in check. Using military force as Hans Binnendijk eloquently argued in an editorial in the Washington Post last week is no option either. An overwhelming public majority in Europe and in the US thinks a negotiated solution to the nuclear stand-off can be found. Rallying war weary publics behind a futile military intervention is beyond the political will of the Obama or any European administration -- for good reasons. Advocates of targeted strikes have yet to prove how such strikes would have more than a delaying effect. Clearly the side-effects of even limited military action in today's chaotic Middle East are incalculable. It would further incite the conflicts Iran and its regional adversaries are carrying out in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

By contrast, even a bad deal would not be the end of the story. It would be the beginning of some tough homework for the international community. It would require the United States and Europe to remain steadfast in their unity vis-à-vis Iran. Allies would have to work hard to continue negotiations over tough verification and inspections measures and be willing to keep up the pressure on Iran and continue to sanction violations of any agreement. Trans-Atlantic partners would have to think hard how the legitimate security concerns of Israel can be addressed. Yet, without a deal we fall back into a situation without viable channels of communication. As we know these silent times have brought zero progress on nuclear disarmament but we saw the number of Iranian centrifuges spiraling.

Clear Messages Needed

Admitting this lack of alternatives is not a leap of faith to the Iranian regime. With its policy of supporting militias and terrorists in the region, with its dire human rights record, with its denial of Israel's right to exist, Iran's government cannot become a trusted partner. Reaching a nuclear deal or the presence of the Islamic State do not change this fundamental equation. But demonizing the country is no viable alternative. It only fuels the regime's rhetoric of "resistance" and contributes to further entrenchment of all the concerned parties. We have to see Iran as what it is: a regional power with considerable influence but limited means. We have to work together where our interests coincide and we have to signal clearly which policies we are not willing to tolerate. Any nuclear deal, even if it is deemed a bad one, is a step forward towards this more pragmatic policy that might one day lead us out of the deadly spiral of threats, violence and war.

About the Author
  • Omid Nouripour was born in 1975 and raised in Iran. He later emigrated to Germany. He has served as a member of the Bundestag, the German federal parliament, as a member of the Green Party since 2006. Nouripour is the party's parliamentary spokesman for foreign policy issues.


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Albertabound 03/31/2015
1. Honour and dishonour
“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last." ~Winston Churchill. The author has persuaded himself that the Iranian leaders do not mean what they say. He forgets. And because he like all the others who dreamt of peace but failed to prepare for war we shall have war. The leaders of the West need to again read their Churchill. As he said of Chamberlain and Daladier "You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.” ~Winston Churchill. Unfortunately history will say the same about Obama, Merkel, Cameron, Holland, et al.
nerih 04/01/2015
2. If Iran did not want to hide their nuclear weapons a deal would have been easy.
One thing is clear if Iran did not want to secretly build atomic weapons (a position taken by Japan and Germany for example), the negotiations would be short and simple. The fact that Iran is so reluctant to cooperate, and so ambigious in its positions, is an indication of iIran's true intent to continue and hide its nuclear bomb program. If they didn't want the bomb negotiation would have concluded by now.
insights7 04/01/2015
Every three weeks or so we see Iranian officials threatening nuclear destruction on USA and Israel..............so why should any deal be made?
stevej8 04/02/2015
4. Good deal is the point
The real point is to get a good deal, and do what is needed to bring it about. War with Iran is certainly a terrible prospect, especially in such unstable times, but an Iranian bomb, if it suddenly emerged as a fait accompli (ie one way or another) would also be a terrible fact, that would inevitably lead to a nuclear arms race in the middle east (and even beyond) if not war itself. There are also clearly irresponsible elements in Iran who might become more influential in the future and could not be trusted with such means of destruction and blackmail. As bad as the nuclear status-quo is, an Iranian bomb would be even worse, and must be prevented by all reasonable and ultimately military means if necessary, as a very last resort, but absolute and unwavering vigilance is required, backed with the rapid means of enforcement, to ensure that the Iranian leadership cannot use a spell of relaxed attention and/or regional chaos to quickly achieve the final steps needed to go nuclear, militarily speaking, with all the seriously grave consequences that would entail. Above all as Iran has pledged and submitted itself to the peaceful civil use of nuclear power only, and the inspection regime that goes with NPT accession, along with the solemn pronouncements to that effect by the highest authorities in that nation. A good deal must ensure such is verifiably and enforceably the case, on an ongoing basis, without exploitable reservations or loopholes.
turnipseed 04/02/2015
5. a deal with Iran
Of course a bad deal is better than no deal. We seem to forget that we cannot control the future. We can only work on the next few years, a decade or so. The future will be regardless of what we do. Some of our politicians have swell heads.
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