A More-Interesting-Than-Usual Panel on the Iran Deal

The Atlantic
September 5, 2015
By James Fallows

It’s Saturday night of Labor Day weekend. If you’re anything like me, rather than having some barbecue and a beer, or watching baseball, or watching tennis, or watching football (etc), or reading a book, you’re probably wondering: “How could I learn a little bit more about the JCPOA with Iran, aka ‘the deal’?

You’ve come to the right place. Yesterday (Friday) at the National Press Club in Washington, the Center on Global Interests sponsored an unusually interesting panel discussion on what the ramifications will be, now that the JCPOA is virtually certain to take effect.

I can attest that the discussion was interesting, since I got to see it close-up as moderator. What gave it value was the lineup of people, who disagreed on a number of important issues but all advanced the discussion beyond what we’re used to. In specific:

Former ambassador and arms-control negotiator, and one-time NYT reporter, Richard Burt set things up with a framework of how this was similar to, and different from, other arms agreements, and what it was likely to mean in the region; former ambassador-to-everywhere Thomas Pickering made the case for the deal’s positive effects; energy expert Ariel Cohen made the opposite case; Larry Cohler-Esses of The Forward described what he had seen on his recent trip to Iran, as the first reporter from a Jewish publication to be there since the revolution; Ariane Tabatabai of Georgetown University and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists talked about regional and non-proliferation effects; Michael Singh, who had dealt with this issue in the GW Bush administration, offered cautions about the hard work beginning now that the deal was agreed to; and Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association made the case for the agreement as an unusually effective anti-proliferation measure.

Here’s what I found valuable about the discussion: almost everything everyone said was about what happens starting now, what happens next, as opposed to the normal backward-looking “Oh our negotiators were weak” “No they were strong” tone of recent political/cable TV discussion.

C-Span covered the event yesterday, and it has an online version (non-embeddable here http://www.c-span.org/video/?327950-1/discussion-iran-nuclear-deal) . Highly recommended if you’re interested in the geostrategic pieces that have been placed into motion by this agreement. It includes a number of factlets that will make you sound smart(er)!