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The Iran Deal


Our reality TV presidency is nearing its zenith. With John Bolton joining the inner sanctum of our national security team, we will have officially reached the point where most of our country is run not by experts and professionals, but rather cable TV talking heads. Say what you will about the Rex Tillersons of the world, but the knowledge that nobody leaves the Trump administration with their dignity intact has clearly put a damper on the number of people willing in the White House. This has left the door open to primarily charlatans and cranks.

Maybe none of this will matter. Larry Kudlow has been impressively wrong about everything during an unimpressive two-decade span of playing an economist on TV, but outside a financial crisis the economy will chug along no matter who is the director of the National Economic Counsel [sic]. However, occasionally our government actually must make a decision about something - a decision with consequences. With the departures of Tillerson and McMaster from the White House, two of the administration's key supporters of the Iran nuclear deal framework. The administration will soon need to decide whether the United States will keep up its end of that bargain.

When thinking about the Iran deal, I always go back to one of the core principles of LobbySeven - developing nuclear weapons is just not that difficult. It takes money, time, and effort. But a modern nation with a strong scientific infrastructure will be able to build nuclear weapons, as long as it is able to allocate the resources. The ancestors of today's Iranians - Persians, Seleucids, Achaemenids, Elamites - have an long and storied history of scientific advancement. Persians were inventing algebra when Western Europe faced five more centuries of Dark Ages. Moving to today, the University of Tehran has the world's 45th best engineering program, according to US News rankings. If Iran wants nuclear weapons, it is only a matter of time.

And why wouldn't they want nuclear weapons? Iran's leaders are well aware that American presidents have long grouped them with rogue nations such as Iraq and Libya; Iranian leaders are well aware of what happened to Hussein and Qaddafi. Had these leaders held nuclear arsenals, the world would not have been quite as sanguine about deposing - and killing - these murderous dictators. As with North Korea, Iran is not being irrational when it develops nuclear weapons for national defense.

If it wished to prevent these developments, the rest of the world had few potential ways of doing so. Airstrikes could have impacted Iran's development schedule. They have been long been threatened, by both the United States and by Israel. Unfortunately, they have been threatened for long enough where most of Iran's development is underground, impervious to bombs. Some space could be added to Iran's nuclear timetable, but it is a temporary solution at best.

A full invasion, igniting regime change, would likely put the kibosh on Iran's nuclear ambitions. But those who push for this fourth war in the Middle East are, as usual, massively underestimating the cost in both lives and treasure. Iran has more than twice the population, and nearly four times the land area of its neighbor to the west. The Iraq War lasted almost 9 years and cost $2.4 trillion (by some measures). 4,500 American soldiers, and 300 additional coalition soldiers, were killed, along with about 18,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, and at least 100,000 civilians - possibly many more. Even with these great losses, the result of the War is hardly an unqualified success. We can only guess what a war with and occupation of Iran might cost, but it would likely be more than we are willing to bear.