The Iranian Deal and Doublethink

Cherryl Smith, PhD, is professor emerita in rhetoric and composition at California State University, Sacramento. She writes at Framing Israel.

The substance of what’s wrong with the Iran deal (see here and here) can also be found in the uses and abuses of language surrounding the deal.

It is hard to reconcile that the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran say, directly, that we should not expect them to change in any way, and yet, the U.S. led team of negotiators seems to disregard the plain meaning of these leaders’ actions and words. It may not quite be George Orwell’s “doublethink” in 1984:

“To know and not to know . . . to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic . . .

But it is certainly disturbing.

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The Best Deal We Could Get

Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt realized that he could bypass the need for a 2/3 majority vote from Congress by referring to a treaty as something other than a treaty, presidents have at times called treaties “executive agreements.” The treaty with Iran goes by the name, the deal.

And though discussion might have centered on whether this was a good or bad treaty, calling it a “deal” has not only made it sound like a less than weighty agreement, it seems also to have obscured why we, that is, the West as represented by the US, EU and UK, were negotiating in the first place.

The point of “dealing” with Iran was to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons. Lifting sanctions was to occur in order to stop Iran’s nuclear build up. Since the deal does not accomplish this, the Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians and Israelis, 77% of Americans, and Iranian exiles are free to voice their opposition.

It is not as if the US, UK, Germany and France actually need a deal with Iran. (Perhaps China and Russia are happy with the deal for economic reasons.) But the West and the Middle East do need Iran, the world’s biggest enabler of terrorism, not to add nuclear weapons to its arsenal.

If this really were the best deal that could be arranged, the logical alternative would be no deal – at least not yet.

Centrifuge and Subterfuge

Wendy Sherman

US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman

The focus on making a deal–as opposed to influencing Iran’s behavior–has led to some weird obfuscation.

Even if there will be some slowing of Iran’s process for the next few years, the materials and machinery needed for making nuclear weapons are still in place. The promised “anytime-anywhere” inspections not only have disappeared, they’ve been replaced with an up to 24-day advance notice and, even more bizarre, with the requirement that the Iranians must receive specific explanation of the cause for the inspection.

And the U.S. Undersecretary of State, Wendy Sherman, said that calling for anytime-anywhere inspections was merely “rhetorical.”

The Not Moderate Republic

Everything other than the sanctions and the nuclear program was “off the table.” The deal lifts the sanctions and pretty much keeps the nuclear program. Human rights of Iranians were not discussed, not the beatings or killings of victims of rape, nor the hanging of gays, nor the lack of freedoms overall. Off the table, also, was discussion of the illegally imprisoned four Americans being held there.

Nor was Iran asked, in exchange for lifting the economic sanctions against it, to stop threatening Israel, to stop supporting terrorism by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad’s forces in Syria, or Hamas in Gaza. In fact, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenai announced, the day after the “deal” was completed, that this “victory” would change nothing about “policy toward the arrogant US” or their agenda, an agenda that uses very clear language.

Throughout the months of negotiations, Iranian leaders led chants of “death to America” and “death to Israel” and reiterated their goals of becoming the dominant force in the Middle East, as they believe is the destiny of the Islamist Republic of Iran.

Trying to account for agreement to this deal seems to require Orwell’s doublethink.

 

Sherman CC BY-ND flickr/U.S. Embassy Kyiv Ukraine

 

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