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Jewish Journal

Will Santa bring Obama peace for Christmas?

by Micah D. Halpern

October 30, 2013 | 12:21 pm

President Barack Obama in Washington on Oct. 21. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President Barack Obama in Washington on Oct. 21. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

It is too early to tell what will emerge from talks among the new diplomatic triumvirate composed of the United States, Russia and Iran. But one thing is for certain: Even the worst of all agreements is far superior to the current situation. 

Certainly, I understand the problems with Iran. I also know that the benefits, even if only the remote possibility of benefits, are better than the current conflict. Rapprochement, even just a little, between the United States and Iran, just enough to lift the U.S.-imposed sanctions against Iran, is a lot. It would be a positive move, a move in the right direction. It would break the stalemate that has handcuffed the world and dominated foreign policy for too long.

The world will be able to let out a collective breath of relief. The Iranians, the people, the citizens, will realize real relief in the form of an improved lifestyle and improved living conditions. If the only result is a happier Iranian population, it is worth it all. 

The aggressive behavior, both diplomatically and politically, that has emanated from Iran, and which has resulted in their indignant and ferocious race to attain nuclear weapons, has been a response to the isolation that Iran has been feeling these past few years. Once Iran begins talking to the United States and Russia together, the signal will go out that it is all right to deal with them, that it is OK to publicly interact with them in the international community. And once Iran is received by the international community, the immediate nuclear threat will diminish. Iran will no longer fight the conditions that have already been set down for them — they will allow spot inspections and they will limit their uranium enrichment.

None of this means that Iran has already become or is on the road to becoming a peaceful nation, but rather, that their nuclear program and their weapons issues are no longer on their own front burner.

Not everyone will be happy, not every country will be satisfied by the agreement that will be forged by the United States, Russia and Iran no matter what that agreement is. The main bone of contention, for example, between Israel and the United States on the Iranian issue is that Israel wants sanctions to remain in place until the Iranians follow through and stop their enrichment. Israel asserts that if sanctions are lifted now, reinstituting them at a later time and Israel believes that that time will come can take years. Rescinding sanctions takes only a few seconds. 

There have been whispers and there is speculation. We are being led to believe that the United States wants a plan in place by the end of December. That’s soon. A name has even been already assigned to the plan. They are calling it a “Christmas plan.”

The essence of the plan, as far as we who are not actually at the negotiating table drafting the plan can determine, would allow Iran to preserve their civilian nuclear development facilities. It permits the Iranians to enrich uranium up to 5 percent. It halts all 20 percent enrichment. It will halt all activity at the plutonium reactor in Arak. And it will transform the Fordo plant into a scientific and medical experimental facility.

That plan seems to have been agreed upon by all parties involved — the United States, which devised it; Russia, which agrees with it; and, most crucially, the Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. 

Israel wants one more condition attached to the plan. Israel wants all underground plants brought above ground. As Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, there is no reason for a peaceful plant to be underground. Only a secret military arms plant needs to be hidden. Netanyahu is correct.

Personally, I am more troubled by another issue. Iran is suddenly becoming a different kind of world player.

Suddenly, post agreement, the Iranians will hold much more power than they did before talks began. Then, they held us all in fear, but their actual power was limited. Of course it is still possible that the entire project may fall apart. Iran has its own agenda and objectives that have not changed one iota. Iran wants sanctions lifted at all costs. Iran wants to hold the reins over the entire Muslim world. But since meeting with the United States and Russia, Iran sees the possibility of having it all.

To turn a phrase, now that Iran has been sanctioned by both Russia and the United States, now that it has been given credibility by the great powers of the Western world, it is well on the road to achieving all its goals. If those goals are more important to Iran than the threat of sanctions and its own nuclear desires, the region will be a safer place to live. 

Whatever emerges, it will be for the good. 


Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book is “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World Through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder” (Thomas Nelson).

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