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Columnist: Iran’s nuclear deal – a victory against hardliners and terrorists

By John A. Tures

Contributing columnist

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One of the reasons so many Americans remain skeptical of the Iran nuclear deal is that they don’t really know a lot about Iranian politics. Supporters need to show that the deal reinforces the Iranian moderates, and severely weakens those who want a hard line against America and Israel, as well as sponsor terror. Opponents have to explain why a war is better than a deal.

America has had sanctions on Iran since 1979. Many other countries have done so as well. But this didn’t really stop Iran from trying to build a bomb, use the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to sponsor terrorism abroad, or have a government dominated by hardliners.

The worst threat came from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who vowed to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. Iran also jeopardized Persian Gulf oil, and put the country’s nuclear program on full-speed ahead. Ahmadinejad and his allies fixed the 2009 election and used the government forces to crack down on political dissidents.

Nuclear talks went nowhere and the threat increased of an Israeli-Iranian War that would undoubtedly drag the United States into the conflict, one which would surely dwarf Operation Iraqi Freedom in size and scope. Meanwhile, Iraq slid into a civil war which frustrated American interests in that country, as well as the region.

But then, Iran’s economy crashed. It had more to do with Ahmadinejad’s reckless populism, a bid to try and gain votes and support from the public, than it did from decades of sanctions. And on June 15, 2013, it was revealed that Hassan Rouhani won the election, beating seven other conservative rivals so badly that he didn’t even need a runoff to win.

Ever since his victory, Rouhani has come to the bargaining table with open arms. He has waged political battles with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which supports terrorism and bitterly opposes his concessions to the United States and its allies. Instead of undermining the Iraq government, he has dispatched forces to help the regime fight ISIS – it’s a Shiite vs. Sunni thing.

Now we’ve seen a moderate president in Iran before. Mohammed Khatami, Iran’s fifth president, called for positive engagement with the United States. But he couldn’t do much because he was stifled by the Grand Ayatollah, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, and George W. Bush listed his country part of the “Axis of Evil.” Now it’s a different story, because Khatami’s successor, Ahmadinejad, tried to oust Khamenei from his job as Iran’s Supreme Leader, installing one of his own choices.

The aging cleric has done an about face, which is why Rouhani has been able to get his country to agree to terms hardliners would never accept. This is why every other negotiating member from the West supports the deal.

Most Americans, if they knew these facts, would be far more accepting of a deal. It limits Iran’s nuclear program, weakens the very hardliners that support terrorism and target Israel. And there’s a strong possibility of not only cheaper energy from Iran, but also rebuilding relations with a country that used to be one of our staunchest allies in the Middle East, as hardliners become the ones wiped away from Iranian politics.

Let’s say that the U.S. Congress rejects the deals. If so, we could see a hardliner comeback in Iran, a victory for the sponsors of terrorism, an increased likelihood of Israel bombing Iran, with a retaliation that drags America into a conflict that makes Iraq look like a skirmish. We’ll wonder then why we rejected such a deal that could have avoided such a nightmare scenario.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College. He may be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.