Diplomacy wins again in battle vs. guns: Iran edition

U.S. Secretary of StateJohn Kerry with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Three international examples about Iran show us the power of words over weapons.

Two U.S. Navy boats in the Persian Gulf drifted into Iranian waters near Iran’s Farsi Island after sailors made what U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter called “navigational errors.” One of the boats was having engine trouble, making it unable to leave when the boats were approached by Iranian boats. The 10 sailors on board were picked up by the Iranians and shown on camera. The GOP went apoplectic, claiming that the Iranian action showed how “weak” President Obama is.

Of course, the fact that relations between the two countries have thawed because of the Iran nuclear deal made it easier for Secretary of State John Kerry to call Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and work out the details of a release. The sailors were out in less than a day, and the boats — intact — were headed back to a Naval base in San Diego.

The sailors’ release didn’t stop presidential hopefuls at the Republican presidential debate a day after the release from criticizing Obama for letting the incident happen, even though the U.S. sailors’ mistake was what caused them to drift into Iranian waters. Republicans reiterated demands that the U.S. abandon the Iranian nuclear pact.

The candidates looked pretty foolish demanding the sailors’ release after the fact. Of course, that’s what happens when you only “get your news from Fox & Friends,” as former Florida Gov. Jeb! Bush claimed at the debate.

There was more good news with the release of five Americans being held by Iran. In a prisoner swap, four prisoners, including Washington Post reporter Jason Razaian, were released in exchange for seven Iranians being held by the U.S. on sanctions charges. A fifth U.S. prisoner also was released.

The prisoner exchange was arranged after 14 months of secret diplomatic talks between the two countries. Those talks started during the long negotiations about the Iran nuclear deal. Many Republicans tried to demand that the U.S. prisoners be released before agreement on any nuclear pact. It’s a good thing that those in charge didn’t listen to them.

That’s what diplomacy is for, especially when talks are being held in secret. Threats of force, such as those coming from presidential hopefuls and Republican members of Congress, only make the situation worse. While Republicans were bashing the administration for inaction, Obama and his team were quietly making progress.

After all of the hard work from all of the parties working on the Iran nuclear deal, both the U.S. and Iran know incidents like these are best handled diplomatically. “Higher up in the halls of power, there were signs that both Tehran and Washington wanted to tamp down the situation,” according to an analysis by NBC News. “That was partly to avoid an international incident, all-out war, and protect a deal with benefits for both sides.

“The Obama administration considers the nuclear deal a significant accomplishment and doesn’t want anything to undermine it,” the analysis continues. “The Iranian government, meanwhile, wants to make sure it gets the billions of dollars in sanctions relief from a finalized nuclear deal.”

Neither of these positive outcomes would have been possible without the Iran nuclear agreement. “This prisoner release personifies the persistence and wisdom of the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts,” writes Reza Marashi, research director of the National Iranian American Council, in a piece at Huffington Post. “It simply could not have happened without dialogue between the U.S. and Iran.”

Now we have the ultimate diplomatic success. Iran and the countries involved in the nuclear pact have announced that the pact is certified and Iran has met the conditions of dismantling its nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency has released its report assessing Iran’s compliance with an agreement with foreign powers, including the United States and the European Union. “Doing so would herald ‘Implementation Day,’ the formal name for the start of the next phase in the agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” according to a CNN story. “The new ‘Day’ will mean the first wave of economic relief for Iran.” And it’s now the real deal. Obama signed an executive order lifting sanctions against Iran.

Americans need to ask themselves: Which side do you want representing you? Those willing to negotiate multiple deals that further the cause of peace with diplomacy, or those quick to jump on the war wagon?

 

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