Skip to main content

6 reasons Iran deal was good for America

By Trita Parsi, Special to CNN
updated 12:28 PM EST, Mon November 11, 2013
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the foreign ministry in Abu Dhabi Monday to brief the UAE on talks with Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the foreign ministry in Abu Dhabi Monday to brief the UAE on talks with Iran.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Trita Parsi: France scuttled a good Iran-U.S. deal negotiated by the U.S., accepted by others
  • He says deal offered Iran modest sanctions relief for big overhaul of its nuclear program
  • Parsi: It was a good deal for the U.S., for Israel, for human rights in Iran, to fight al Qaeda
  • Parsi: Deal would stop inevitable escalating march to a devastating war with Iran

Editor's note: Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council and author of "A Single Roll of the Dice -- Obama's Diplomacy with Iran" (Yale University Press, 2012) and "Treacherous Alliance -- The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the U.S." (Yale University Press, 2007).

(CNN) -- Diplomacy is never easy. Top diplomats of Iran, the United States and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, spent three days debating a first, interim deal on Iran's nuclear program. And an agreement was found: After 34 years of estrangement, Iran and the U.S. were finally on the same page.

Still, the deal fell through. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius showed up in Geneva, Switzerland, a day into the talks and adopted a hawkish line that guaranteed the failure of the discussions.

Trita Parsi
Trita Parsi

And much to the dismay of the other diplomats involved, Fabius broke protocol and announced both details of the talks and the failure to reach a deal before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had a chance to address the media. Fabius, echoing the objections of hard-line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, argued that Iran would get too much in the proposed deal. But in reality Iran was only offered modest sanctions relief in return for some significant suspension of aspects of its nuclear program.

Here's why the deal the United States negotiated, and France scuttled, would have been good for America.

1. Iran would not get a nuclear weapon

The most important aspect of the agreement with Iran that U.S. President Barack Obama is pursuing is that Tehran would not be able to build a nuclear weapon. If Tehran tries to cheat, it would be caught very early in that process and face consequences. By limiting Iran's nuclear enrichment activities to below 5% enrichment, combined with the most intrusive inspections that exist -- the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- the deal means Iran could not amass the material to build a nuclear bomb. In short, Obama would achieve America's main national security objective.

2. This would be a good deal for Israel

What is a 'good deal' with Iran?

Even though Netanyahu would never say it publicly, he knows very well that this would be a good deal for Israel -- not only because it would prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb, but because improved U.S.-Iran relations inevitably would lead to a softening of Iran's position on Israel. This has already happened since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected. When Iran's strategic interest has dictated such a position on Israel, it has pursued that path in spite of its ideological inclinations to challenge Israel.

The long road to nuclear talks with Iran
Obama: Iran deal is possible

Don't take it from me, take it from the former head of Israel's intelligence services, Efraim Halevy: "If the dynamism that leads to a resolution of the nuclear issue, leads to a thaw between Iran and the U.S., it's very difficult for the Iranians to envisage an 'American spring' at the same time they pursue a confrontation with Israel."

3. It would be good for human rights and democracy in Iran

Human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in Iran have for years testified that tensions between Iran and United States -- with the risk of war and devastating economic sanctions -- have made their work all the more difficult. The situation created an Iran with military-security forces in charge. Everything was seen through the prism of a potential war with the United States. Political freedom and human rights became lesser priorities for Iranians when the primary concerns were to survive the economic malaise and avoid war.

Democracy simply does not flourish under the threat of war or under the burden of economic collapse. With the reduction of tensions as a result of this deal, the opportunity would rise once more for the defenders of democracy and human rights to push Iran's political system toward greater freedom.

4. The destructive escalation train would be stopped

For the first time since 2005, key elements of the Iranian nuclear program would be frozen. This would be a significant achievement: Although the West has for years escalated its sanctions and put great pressure on the Iranian economy, Iran has at the same time expanded its nuclear program, inching closer toward a nuclear weapons capability -- a mutual escalation, with no solution in sight. Obama's deal with Iran would put a stop to that. Negotiations could proceed without the nuclear program progressing at the same time.

5. It would advance the fight against al Qaeda

In spite of their enmity, some issues have found Iran and the United States on the same side, perhaps nowhere more than in the struggle against al Qaeda. Iran has been targeted by al Qaeda's terrorism for decades. It is often said that the Salafi Sunni extremists in al Qaeda hate the Shiites in Iran more than the infidels in America. Yet the hostility between Iran and the United States has prevented them from collaborating against this common threat to the extent that they could and should. By opening the path to improved relations between the two states through the nuclear deal, they could claim common cause against this global threat and help stabilize the region.

6. There would be peace, not war

Last but not least, not only would Obama's deal prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, it would also prevent a devastating war with Iran. Make no mistake: Although the U.S. military can handle another war, the U.S. economy cannot absorb its cost. Without this deal, a military confrontation would become all but certain and the American people would have to kiss the economic recovery goodbye.

The American people who fought tooth and nail against a limited war with Syria would have to settle for a war with Iran that could well be far more devastating. Thanks to Obama's diplomacy, this nightmare scenario could be prevented.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Trita Parsi.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:16 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 9:40 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 7:05 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT