[symple_box]Sabria Chowdhury Balland is an international columnist specializing on US political and legal matters and is published in several international publications. Sabria
is a Managing Editor at Economic Affairs Magazine and is an Elected Member of the US Democratic Party, Democrats Abroad. You can follow her on Twitter at: @sabriaballand[/symple_box]
The historic international nuclear agreement between the United States and its allies and Iran was announced in July, 2015. Since then, there has been a great deal of scepticism, particularly from critics and the Republican Party about the credibility that Iran, a “hostile” adversary, would make good on its word to curb its nuclear ambitions in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions and unfreezing of its assets. Contrarily, President Obama and his administration were confident and tenacious in their convictions that diplomatic negotiations and not war, were the only way to achieve mutually beneficial goals. They were right.
The Washington Post states:
“Six months later, Obama made good on his pledge when Iran released 5 US citizens, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who spent 544 days in captivity. It was an “I told you so” moment for the President, who has bet his foreign policy legacy on the high stakes nuclear agreement with Tehran that has been denounced by his critics as a capitulation to an untrustworthy US enemy.”
Last week, ten US Navy sailors were detained by Iran when they strayed off into Iranian waters. This provoked further the insistence of the President’s critics in the opposition that there was still evidence that Iran continues to be hostile. However, the sailors were quickly released. To this, President Obama stated that the swift release of the US Navy officers was proof of a new era of diplomacy that had been established with Iran. This was only the tip of the iceberg.
A new era of diplomacy with Iran began when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that the conditions set after the major talks in July of 2015 had been respected and fulfilled. Almost immediately, the United States and its allies lifted banking, steel, shipping and other sanctions.
Consequently, Iran released five American prisoners as a part of a prisoner exchange with the United States. In return, President Obama also pardoned three Iranian-Americans who were charged with violating sanctions imposed on Iran. Iran has emerged from years of economic isolation with the lifting of economic sanctions in return for curbing its nuclear ambitions.
Why this is particularly significant is because according to the United States, this is a colossal victory for US diplomacy, hailing the implementation of an agreement which had “cut off every single path” for Iran to build a nuclear bomb.
The Republican Party and critics of the Iran Deal however, have been less than overjoyed (not surprisingly!) due their mistrust of the Iranian government’s intentions. Their discontentment goes so far as to cause wonder (this time, surprisingly!) about whether they are relieved that American hostages have been released by Iran, a victory in and of itself. Instead, the Obama administration’s opponents have even turned this very positive news into yet another negative partisan dispute.
In the normal state of events, Americans, particularly those who seek to lead the nation, should be overjoyed when something good happens to the US or when it achieves landmark outcomes as a result of sound policies. Apparently not with the current line-up of Republican leaders who, at any cost attempt to undermine any successes and achievements of the Obama administration merely for the purpose of well…doing so.
The view of the Republican Party is that the White House has demonstrated a sign of weakness. So, are we to understand that their opposition to the President is so visceral that it defies all logic and empathy? Are we to understand that Republicans would be more comfortable and content had the Americans remained in prison in a foreign land, having committed no crimes? Would that have demonstrated a sign of strength on the part of the US government? These would have been very interesting questions to ask at the next Republican Presidential debate.
There was deep-rooted scepticism on the Iranian side, also. This was based on their doubts and fears that the United States and its Western allies would never lift the sanctions even if the nuclear issues were resolved. Their claim was that the ultimate goal of the United States was to topple the Islamic regime, leaving the economic sanctions in place until this goal was achieved.
However, once the sanctions had been lifted, it was clear to hardliners in Iran that effectively, they were wrong and that the US and its allies were, in fact, keeping their word, with even international banks offering lines of credit to Iran.
A highly significant point to note is that the lifting of economic sanctions will not affect other restrictions related to Iran’s alleged sponsorship of terrorism and human rights violations.
The crux of this monumental victory in diplomacy hails from the persistence and wisdom of the Obama administration. What was clear from President Obama and his administration from the very beginning of the Iran Nuclear Deal fourteen months ago was that the use of force to get Iran to comply would have been counter-productive. The only way to move forward was through dialogue between the United States and Iran and it worked.
The most noteworthy lesson to learn here is that it was dialogue, diplomacy and negotiations which have yielded peaceful, mutually beneficial results for the United States and Iran. This historic progress was achieved via diplomacy, without resorting to another war.
President Obama had known it all along and had not once flinched in the face of repeated criticism from his critics. Rightfully so.
The Iran Nuclear Deal and the prisoner exchange add to what will go down in history as The Obama Legacy. Now, we can only hope that the next occupant of The White House respects the tenets of diplomacy as much as possible without inherently opting for war.