Middle East studies in the News
University of Montana Middle East Experts: Iran Nuke Deal Not Bad, But Strengthens Conservative Regime [incl. Mehrdad Kia]
by Mike Dennison
The Iranian nuclear deal bars Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but it also strengthens the conservative, anti-American regime in the Iran, says a trio of Middle East and foreign policy experts at the University of Montana.
Still, the experts told MTN News the deal is probably the best the United States can hope for at this point, since other countries are prepared to end economic sanctions no matter what America does.
"Overall, (my take) is a cautious positive," said Owen Sirrs, an adjunct professor of regional studies and a former officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, specializing in the Middle East. "I don't think we're going to get a much better deal out of Iran, and we can't keep all the other countries in line with the sanctions."
One of them also called the agreement "the most obtrusive inspection regime ever negotiated in any arms agreement," enabling the international community to find out if Iran is cheating on the deal.
"If they decide to use (technology and money gained by the deal) to develop a nuclear weapon, we will know it," said Don Loranger, a retired Air Force general who has served in the Middle East. "And if we know it, we are no worse off than we are now."
Loranger directs the Defense Critical Language and Culture Program, which trains special forces and other officers on the language and culture of areas where they serve, including the Middle East.
Mehrdad Kia, a history professor and director of the Central and Southwest Asian Studies Center at UM, said the agreement delays "the rise of a nuclear Iran, which does bring the temperature down in the region."
Yet he added that the current Iranian regime still desires a bomb, over the long term, and "that's what we'll have to deal with."
Kia, who grew up in Iran, said the lifting of economic sanctions – which is part of the deal – will help the conservative leadership of the Islamic republic survive and perhaps stave off rebellion from a restive, youthful population.
"Their economy is in shambles, so, what really happened is, as the result of this agreement, the regime has been prolonged," he said.
The lifting of sanctions will enable investment to flow into Iran, helping revive the economy and strengthen the regime, Kia said.
But he also said with more foreign investment and tourism, Iranian society will be exposed to outside ideas and potential agents of change.
"This is a peaceful way of changing things inside Iran," Kia said. "That is one of the calculations that the White House had in mind, when they were thinking about the deal. But, I don't think this (Iranian) regime will ever go in the direction of normalizing relations with the United States."
Congressional Republicans, including Montana's Rep. Ryan Zinke and Sen. Steve Daines, have opposed the deal, saying it gives Iran access to money it can use to fund terrorism and allows it to continue nuclear research.
U.S. Senate Democrats this week again blocked a vote on a resolution to block the deal, allowing it to go forward.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., supports the deal, saying the country should give diplomacy a chance to work. If Iran is caught cheating on the agreement, all options are still on the table, he has said.
Sirrs said he hopes the deal gives the United States and the world "a better window into what Iran is doing" on nuclear research, although questions remain about what facilities Iran may have: "We don't know what we don't know."
Loranger said the agreement deserves support because it avoids military conflict with Iran, while putting some definite parameters on its nuclear program.
"We would be foolish not to give it a chance, he said. "If you have it as a policy that Iran never joins the nuclear-weapon club, we need to be prepared to to do anything to keep that from happening. But first, we ought to have an agreement to keep them out of that club."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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