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Iran Nuclear Deal’s Reaction: Partisan and Extreme

Reaction to the nuclear agreement between Iran and the “P5+1” – the U.S., U.K., France, China and Russia, plus Germany, the permanent member nations on the U.N. Security Council – has been swift and diverse.

Almost simultaneous with its announcement, several prominent Republican leaders, including a few 2016 presidential candidates, denounced it, reflecting a mostly negative GOP response.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham called it “a death sentence for Israel,” sentiments shared by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said it was a threat to both Israel and the U.S.

“Iran gets everything and loses nothing,” declared real estate mogul and 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump. “This is a bad deal that sets a dangerous precedent.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner said President Obama had “abandoned his goals” and brokered a deal that “will only embolden Iran – the world’s largest sponsor of terror – by helping stabilize and legitimize its regime as it spreads even more violence and instability in the region.”

GOP presidential hopeful and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker labeled the agreement a “diplomatic retreat” that was among the “worst diplomatic failures” in U.S. history.

Sen. John McCain said he didn’t believe it would receive congressional approval, expressing concern that it would “nuclearize the Middle East,” a fear he said was shared by leaders in the region.

Democratic responses were mixed. The Obama administration emphasized the deal’s necessity and positive aspects, while others took a more cautious approach.

In a press conference on July 15, Obama described it as a “comprehensive, long-term deal” that would “prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” and that “represents a powerful display of American leadership and diplomacy.”

Under-Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on July 16 at the daily State Department press briefing, “We believe that this is a very good deal.”

Former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed cautious optimism. “This is an important step in putting a lid on Iran’s nuclear program,” she said, before adding as a qualifying statement, “we have to treat this as an ongoing enforcement effort.”

Expressing less optimism are at least a dozen Democratic leaders. For example, Sen. Jon Tester of Vermont emphasized verification, saying he would vote against the agreement if he wasn’t satisfied with the mechanisms for doing so, while Sen. Robert Mendez of New Jersey expressed regret that the deal lacks “a very clear definitive statement that Iran will never be allowed to achieve a nuclear weapon.”

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid praised the deal as a “historic accord” but noted that at the time neither he nor his staff had read fully the 100-page agreement.

He advised, “Let’s find out what we have first” before reaching conclusions.

The U.N. Security Council adopted unanimously the agreement on July 20.

Responses from Christian leaders have been equally divergent.

Bishop Oscar Cantú, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, expressed gratitude for the “momentous agreement,” which “signals progress in global nuclear non-proliferation.”

The Vatican press office said that it viewed the agreement in a “positive light.”

A Chaldean priest shared that Iranian Christians responded by “rejoicing because their prayers were answered” because the deal restricts the nuclear program and lifts the sanctions.

Several Southern Baptist leaders were critical of the deal, citing concern for Israel and Christians in the region.

Russell Moore, head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, tweeted a link to an op-ed critical of the deal and retweeted a comment that said, in part, “The Iran deal will be awful.”

Given the diverse responses from many leaders who had, admittedly, not read the document when they issued their comments, Reid’s advice to “find out what we have” is wise, needed.

Most of us won’t have the time or desire to read the entire document, and much of the terminology would likely be unfamiliar and too technical to fully comprehend.

While acknowledging that there is no such thing as a “view from nowhere,” it is important to seek out a nonpartisan explanation whenever possible and numerous options have been published.

An Associated Press summary presented information in a question-and-answer format, the Washington Post contrasted what world leaders wanted and what the agreement contained, and a USA Today issue-by-issue summary looked at what the U.S. and Iran sought and obtained.

It is essential to avoid forming opinions primarily based on the statements of pundits or politicians and instead form one’s perspectives by analyzing the data itself (or, in this case, summaries that seek to avoid interjecting personal interpretation as much as possible).

This agreement has revealed that too often responses to events are largely the result of political affiliation.

Thus, Democrats mostly celebrated the agreement reached by a Democratic administration while Republicans primarily criticized the deal. Reverse the parties in power, and the reactions would likely have changed also.

Responses also have largely espoused extreme positions – it is the best of deals; it is the worst of deals – further revealing our polarized society and world.

The moderate middle appears to be an ever-shrinking territory that people of goodwill should seek to reclaim.

It should be remembered that the deal is between six leading global nations and Iran, not the U.S. and Iran alone.

Given that nations instinctively look out for their own best interests, it seems unlikely that the P5+1 would “give in” to Iran to obtain a deal as some have claimed.

Compromise is necessary to broker deals, usually resulting in agreements that are less than each party would have set forth if they had drafted the legislation unilaterally.

The latter would not be an agreement but an ultimatum that precludes compromise, a word too many now perceive as a pejorative term.

Seven global leaders have recognized this and crafted an imperfect but seemingly workable agreement that avoids armed conflict and provides the international community some oversight in Iran.

It remains to be seen if their constituents and the rest of the global community will receive it as such.

Zach Dawes is the managing editor for EthicsDaily.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZachDawes_Jr.