Monday, August 10, 2015

Deal Or No Deal

A lot can happen in a week. At the start of last week, there was a press conference with Amy Schumer (comic actress, writer and vagina activist) and Chuck Schumer (New York Senator who is also the cousin of the aforementioned vagina activist) of a legislative initiative towards more gun control. Score some brownie points for Sen. Schumer for combining political might with pop culture awareness to promote gun control. 

By the end of the week, brownie points were gone and replaced with, I don't know, cauliflower points? All I know is that Sen. Schumer went from "Good luck, Chuck!" to "What the fuck, Chuck!" The reason for this turn of perception of the Senate Democrat from New York was his announcement that he would not support the recently negotiated Iran nuclear deal. 

I'll give Sen. Schumer the benefit of the doubt although I still think he's being a bit of dick about it. I don't think Chuck is a stupid man and if he has any concerns with the Iran deal, I'm sure they are rooted in some legitimate basis. What makes this particularly troubling is the chorus of negativity from other members of Congress that are not rooted in any legitimate basis.  

The Republicans have cranked up the well-oiled "If Obama wants it, he shall not have it" machine to maximum on this issue. Declarations that the Iran nuclear agreement was a bad deal were heard before the deal was even announced. Once it was released, the thumbs down reviews continue to come down including from those who admitted they had not even read the agreement. The proposals to fix this "bad deal" rarely went beyond the parameters of "replace it with a better deal." Except Donald Trump who proposed to replace the current deal with "a terrific deal". 

That kind of thinking is why the Donald is leading in the polls.
So the Obama administration which is very intent on this deal becoming an actual thing faces an uphill battle from a unified political force that has two objections to Obama's deal with Iran.  

1) It's Obama's deal.
2) With Iran. 

After 6+ years of this shit, of countering President Obama at ever turn, make no mistake that the mission for the hard right of the GOP has not changed any at all. Obama will not get what he wants without a fight and often not even then.  The fact that the deal is with Iran is just icing on that cake. 

Iran is headed up by a Muslim theocracy that has gone on record as really, really, really, really not liking Israel. At all. And if there's anything that gets the war hawks of the far right in a tizzy more than a Muslim country, it's a Muslim country with designs on destroying Israel. 

But just because there's this galvanic knee jerk reaction to anything involving the words "Obama" and "Iran", the question does remain, is this a good deal? 

The definition of a "good deal" is a subjective one. It depends on who is getting what out of that deal. For example, let's say that Product X costs $500.00. I pay $450 this product while you pay $300.00 for it. Who got a good deal? Based price along, clearly you did. You save $200.00 while I only saved $50. 

But the devil is in the details. What if I said that my purchase included $300 worth of bonus features and yours did not. So which is the better deal? Well, it depends. If you want to add the bonus features to your deal, you will pay $600.00 which is $150.00 more than what I paid. On the other hand, you may be perfectly OK with your basic version of Product X while I really wanted the tricked out version of the same product. The answer is that we both got a "good deal" based on our individuals needs and expectations. 

And the salesman who sold Product X? He made two sales and made money off of both of them. But let's assume he made a bigger commission off of his sale to me than he did on his sale to you. Was his sale to you a "good deal" for him? Maybe he could've pushed for a "better" deal with you by leading you towards the $450.00 purchase. But remember, you don't care about all the whistles and bells that come with that deal. You could've walked away and he would've made nothing. And for the salesman, that would be a bad deal. 

But let's bring a fourth player into this picture; we'll say he's our 3rd cousin. He tells us that we're both suckers and we could get Product X for $200.00 AND with the bonus features. You see, he knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who got a whole bunch of Product X that fell off of a truck. So is buying Product X from our 3rd cousin a "good deal"? Clearly this isn't good for the salesman who makes NO money off us buying Product X but who cares about the greedy salesman and his commission? We can save hundreds of dollars! Except we're not getting Product X through official channels which mean we're screwed if something goes wrong with it. Or if turns out to not be exactly Product X but something just almost like it. Or any other number of screw ups that can occur with a deal like this. In short, the 3rd cousin deal is a "good deal" only if you're willing to assume several risks in addition to the questionable ethics behind it.  

So what has this got to do with the Iran nuclear deal? OK, here's the crux of this matter as I understand it. 

  1. Iran has nuclear capability.
  2. Iran can use that ability to make energy but also bombs.
  3. The rest of the world does not want Iran to have nuclear bombs.
  4. Various sanctions have been employed by the USA and other countries to curtail Iran's ability to make nuclear bombs which also includes curtailing access to nuclear energy.
  5. Iran's people are under duress due to the sanctions. 
  6. Iran wants to get rid of the sanctions. 
  7. Iran says it doesn't want nuclear bombs but it has every right to produce energy. 

So what would make a "good deal" for Iran? The lifting of economic sanctions and the ability to produce nuclear energy. 

What would make a "good deal" for the USA and the rest of the world? Restricting Iran's ability to make nuclear bombs.  

So here is the deal in a nutshell.

  1. The deal allows Iran to develop nuclear power but under specified controls and oversight. 
  2. The deal prohibits Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. 
  3. The reward for complying with controls and oversight while not making nuclear weapons is the lifting of sanctions in stages as compliance with the agreement is established.   

There are some objections to this deal. 

  1. There are conditions and parameters regarding controls and oversight; the deal specifies the amount of time notice must be given for inspectors to come in and check things out. Those who object to the Iran nuclear deal think inspectors should just be able to pop up when we want them to come in. That's a "good deal" for us but would a sovereign nation actually agree to such a thing? Like them or not, trust  them or not, Iran is a sovereign nation. 
  2. There is a specific time frame for Iran to not develop a weapon. The objection here is that we are giving the Iranians permission to build a nuclear bomb at a future date. This part is a bit iffy for me too but even then, there are provisions for keeping Iran off the path of building nuclear weaponry built into the deal even after that time frame. A deal with a specified moratorium on nuclear weapons provides additional incentive to honor the deal and comply with the other nations of the world. On the other hand, a deal with an absolute "never gonna get it" ban on nuclear weapons creates an incentive for Iran to circumvent the deal. 
  3. Objections to the lifting of sanctions come in the form that sanctions should not be lifted without complete compliance with a nuclear deal; they should not be lifted in stages including the stage of agreeing to the agreement. Again, the goal is to increase Iran's incentive to comply with the agreement. That incentive is the lifting of sanctions. If sanctions won't be lifted until complete compliance with an agreement, there is no immediate reward and actual disincentive to follow through with the details of the deal.  

Those who oppose the Iran nuclear deal are working from a questionable if not completely incorrect assumption that we're working in a vacuum here.  We're not. There are a lot of moving parts to consider. 
  1. The USA is not the only nation involved. We may be leading the effort to curtail Iran from having a nuclear weapons program but we're not the only nation on our side of the table. Our allies in this effort want a deal and want to be able to lift sanctions from Iran. 
  2. The sanctions in place now are not necessarily keeping Iran from a nuclear program. In fact, by isolating Iran through sanctions, we drive them further inward to develop nuclear resources to develop a base of power to replace the influence Iran as lost through sanctions.  
  3. Isolating Iran further acerbates tensions between the Iranian regime and the rest of the world.  
  4. Continued sanctions against Iran hurts the citizens more than it hurts the government. That's not only a human cost to consider but it pushes away many ordinary Iranians who otherwise may be sympathetic to Western views. 
  5. Without a deal, the US and our allies have no established method to restrict and monitor Iran's nuclear program. Without a deal, there is little to stop Iran from pushing forward with a nuclear program that includes weapons. 
  6. Without a deal, the only option left to stop Iran from developing an unmonitored nuclear program is to go to war. Our track record for war in the Middle East is not good. And the US would likely being going to war with no support from our allies. After all, our allies wanted a deal with Iran and are for the most part on board with the deal in place now. If the US wants to play tough guy and go in with guns blazing to accomplish something that our allies thought had been done through diplomacy, I imagine their point of view on that is we'll have to fuck this up without their help. 

Republican adversaries to the Iran nuclear deal have said a bad deal is worse than no deal. You know what? That's true. But is the current Iran nuclear deal truly a bad deal? Wiser heads than mine will have to determine that. But my opinion is that the deal is bad only in the sense in that the US doesn't get its way 100%. The GOP is our 3rd cousin who knows a guy who knows a guy, the cousin who can save us the most money but at what cost? 

A deal is a good deal whenever all parties involved can get the relative best outcome for all the parties involved. Iran is a party involved and they have to get something out of it just as we do. 

Whoa! I wrote more on this that I expected to. I need to wrap this up.

So to sum up, I still think Chuck Schumer is being a bit of dick. 

Thank you and be good to one another. 

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