Progressives Need to See the Bigger Picture on Iran | John Bradshaw

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Progressives Need to See the Bigger Picture on Iran | John Bradshaw

Progressives Need to See the Bigger Picture on Iran

By John Bradshaw, Executive Director of the National Security Network
July 30, 2014 | Washington Monthly

Progressives who gathered in Detroit two weeks ago for the Netroots convention were not very focused on national security issues, but when those issues did come up there was one loud and clear theme: No more wars in the Middle East. This anti-war sentiment has long been an animating force for progressives and is now understandably heightened by a war weariness shared by a large percentage of the American public. But progressives can contribute more to the national security debate than just a strong voice in opposition to reflexive military solutions. There is a need for a positive progressive vision that supports alternatives to military solutions and finds an appropriate and sustainable role for American national security policy. On one current issue, the effort to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, apprehension about being sucked into another futile Middle Eastern war has motivated many on the left, but there has been less focus on the possible longer terms benefits of a diplomatic agreement in getting U.S. policy in the region on a better track.

Talks between Iran and the P5 + 1 nations have made considerable progress since an interim agreement was signed in November 2013. Tough issues remain to be resolved so negotiations have been extended beyond an initial July 20 deadline and now have November 24 as a target date for reaching an agreement. A good deal that prevents Iran from being able to construct nuclear weapons but allows a civilian nuclear poer program under strict inspections is within reach. In return for submitting to intrusive inspections and agreeing to limits on enrichment, Iran would get relief from international and U.S. sanctions. If a deal can be reached and can be effectively implemented, what are the possible positive consequences for U.S. policy in the region?

For decades, the U.S. has been trapped by perceptions of its role in the region that limit flexibility. The implacable hostility toward Iran, complex relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and the alliance with Israel have prevented the U.S. from being seen as an honest broker. Simply signing a deal with Iran, of course, will not ensure the U.S. a freer hand in the Middle East. But if the Iranians comply with the provisions of the agreement and the U.S. implements sanctions relief on its end, Iran would be on a path toward gaining status as a normal nuclear state under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

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Photo Credit: Secretary Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif Sit Down For Second Day of Nuclear Talks in Vienna. [State Department, 7/14/14]

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Wendy Sherman and David Cohen testify on the Iran nuclear talks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [C-Span, 7/29/14]al-Baghdadi First Appearance.