The several hundred Republicans who have thrown their hats into the ring for the 2016 presidential race and the war hawks in Congress (mainly but hardly only Republicans) have already been in full howl about the Vienna nuclear deal with Iran. Jeb Bush took about two seconds to label it “appeasement,” instantly summoning up the image of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain giving in to Hitler before World War II; former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee spared no metaphor in labeling the agreement “a deal that empowers an evil Iranian regime to carry out its threat to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ and bring ‘death to America’”; Senator Lindsey Graham called it a “possible death sentence for Israel”; this year’s leading billionaire candidate, Donald Trump, summed up his opinion of the deal in one you’re-fired-style word, “ridiculous”; Senator John McCain described Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the deal, as “delusional”; and Senator… I mean, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mockingly turned Chamberlain’s infamous “peace in our time” into “peace at any price,” dismissed the deal as a catastrophe filled with “absurdities,” and then appeared on every American media venue imaginable to denounce it. And that’s just to start down the usual list of suspects. Even Senator Rand Paul swore he would vote against the agreement (though his father called it “to the benefit of world peace”), while Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was typical of Republican presidential candidates in swearing that he would personally scuttle the deal on his first day in the Oval Office.
This, in short, is the mad version of international policy that makes Washington a claustrophobic echo chamber. After all, the choice isn’t actually between Iran having no nuclear “breakout” capacity or regaining that capacity 15 years from now (as the present deal seems to offer); the choice is between an agreement for 15 verifiably non-weaponized years and a guarantee of nothing whatsoever. And if you’ve just checked off that nothing-whatsoever column, the alternative is to somehow crush the Iranians, to force them into submission. It is, in other words, some version of war. Two questions on that: How successful has war in the Greater Middle East been as an American policy weapon these last 13 years? And what makes anyone think that, when even Dick Cheney and crew couldn’t bring themselves to pull the trigger on Iran, Jeb B. or any of the other candidates will be likely to do so in an ISIS-enriched world in 2017?
When you’ve satisfied yourself on those two questions, consider the seldom-discussed larger context within which twenty-first-century nuclear politics has taken place. In these last years, the Pakistanis, the Indians, the Russians, and the Americans, to name just four nuclear powers, have either been expanding or “modernizing” their nuclear stockpiles in significant ways. And god knows what the Israelis were doing with their super-secret, never officially acknowledged, but potentially civilization-busting atomic arsenal of 80 or more weapons, while the North Koreans were turning themselves into a nuclear mini-power. Nonetheless, the focus of nuclear attention and the question of “disarmament” has remained almost exclusively on a country that had no such weapons, has officially disavowed them, and at this point, at least, doesn’t even have a weapons program. And note that no one who is anyone in Washington considers any of this the least bit strange.
In this context, that irrepressible TomDispatch regular Pepe Escobar offers another kind of lens-widening exercise when it comes to the Iranian deal. He focuses on a subject that Washington has yet to fully absorb: changing relations in Eurasia. Few here have noticed, but while the Vienna deal was being negotiated, Russia and China, countries the Pentagon has just officially labeled as “threats,” have been moving mountains (quite literally in some cases) to integrate ever larger parts of that crucial land mass, that “world island,” into a vast economic zone that, if all goes as they wish, will be beyond Washington’s power and control. This is a remarkable development that, despite the coming two months of sound and fury about Iran, won’t be at the top of any news report, which is why you need a website like TomDispatch to keep up with the time