Column: Democrats put America before party with Iran deal

In this Sept. 10, 2015 file photo, President Barack Obama, accompanied by Secretary of State John Kerry, meets with veterans and Gold Star Mothers to discuss the Iran Nuclear deal, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

With votes in the Senate last week failing to block the historic nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama Administration will soon begin working with the other countries involved to begin its implementation. However, the argument in Congress and across the U.S. in recent weeks has been fierce and extremely partisan in nature, with no Republican lawmakers supporting the deal.

Public opinion had been divided, and Republicans in both houses have called votes forcing Democrats to reaffirm their support of the agreement. While they ensured the agreement would not be rejected, Democrats gained very little politically. Republican politicians are already attacking Democrats for being too soft on Iran and in the upcoming election it is almost certain they will continue to play on people’s fears of Iran for political gain. 

While some polls by CNN have shown an even split of opinion on the deal, the most recent showing that 45 percent approve while 44 percent disapprove, others have indicated that this smear campaign has been effective. One Pew Research Center poll found that only 21 percent of Americans approve of the deal while 49 percent disapprove.

Interestingly enough, the polls that indicate higher approval give more details about the deal in their polling question. However, despite what opponents of the agreement claim, the Iran Deal was the best option available for America and its rejection would have been a catastrophe. 

The Iran deal cuts off all the major pathways for Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb. According to the White House website on the deal, Iran currently has enough uranium to produce between 8 and 10 bombs. The deal reduces this stockpile by 98 percent and Iran will keep its level of enrichment at 3.67 percent, far below the level required to create a bomb.

Iran also requires weapons-grade plutonium to produce a bomb, and the reactor the country possesses to accomplish this will be redesigned to prevent this from being produced. And inspectors will have access to Iran’s nuclear program at all stages to ensure it won’t develop a bomb in secret.

While there are concerns about sanctions relief, many sanctions were put into place specifically to bring Iran to the negotiating table. And while some funds may be used for terrorist activities, the government will be under tremendous pressure to commit most money towards the economy and domestic issues. Another major concern is the 24 day inspection period.

However, any radioactive evidence would almost certainly still be present in any secret core facility. And while Republicans are saying we can’t trust Iran, the deal was designed with this in mind.  Sanctions will be put into place again if Iran breaks the deal. Without the deal it is currently estimated that Iran could build a bomb in 2-3 months, but with the deal it would take them a year if they broke their commitments.

Approval of the deal also helped improve the image of America. The UN unanimously approved the deal and the agreement has the public support of 92 countries. If Congress had rejected the deal we would have been isolated. Our position in further negotiations or confrontations with Iran would have been much weaker. Any new sanctions would have to be unilateral. Rejection would have weakened our relationship with many allies who would likely implement the deal with Iran without our support.

It is worth pointing out that the people in Iran who support the agreement are moderates who favor closer ties to the West, and the Iranians who oppose it are the extremists with the “Death to America” chants. When the deal was announced many citizens were excited because they believed it signaled the normalization of relations with America.

However, Iranian leaders are justifying their claims that America can’t be trusted by running propaganda clips of Republican politicians bashing the deal and presidential candidates saying that they will “rip it up on day one.” Republicans using this issue for political gain have undermined the efforts of moderate Iranians who are attempting to push for better relations with America.

So despite the potential political backlash from supporting this agreement the Democrats have held strong. A rejection would have meant embarrassment and isolation for America. Instead, Democrats strengthened our position with our allies, gave hope to the moderates and progressives in Iran, and showed that what makes our country great is not our military strength but our capacity for peace.


Jacob Kowalski is a contributor to The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at jacob.kowalski@uconn.edu.