It’s all too easy for the Republican presidential candidates to criticize every single thing that President Barack Obama does. Voters, however, should ask themselves: Are the GOP hopefuls offering any realistic solutions or options?
Republicans couldn’t bring themselves to give any credit for Saturday’s declaration that so far Iran has lived up to the historic nuclear deal. And there was much more carping than celebrating over the release a day later of five Americans imprisoned by Iran.
They complain that the Americans, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, were held too long, but then accuse the president of negotiating with terrorists to get them out. Obama’s critics can’t have it both ways. How did they think the Americans were going to be released, if not a prisoner swap with Iranians convicted of violating sanctions?
Republicans claimed that even tougher sanctions and more bellicose threats would force Iran to end its nuclear ambitions. But they offered precious little proof and presented no plausible alternative.
Diplomacy – painstaking negotiations led by Secretary of State John Kerry over many months – did produce results. Iran’s nuclear weapons program has been slowed for a decade or more without military action that could very well have sparked a war.
This doesn’t mean that after 37 years of tension, Iran and the United States are suddenly allies, but there is the opportunity for a more productive relationship with a nation that – like it or not – has wide influence in the volatile Middle East. “We have a rare chance to pursue a new path, a different, better future that delivers progress for both our peoples and the wider world,” Obama said Sunday at the White House.
How the deal will finally be judged in history depends on how well future compliance is monitored by international inspectors and what happens if violations are found.
There are also broader measures for its success: Will it bring some political openness inside Iran? Will Iran use the $50 billion in unfrozen assets to improve the living standards of its people, or to strengthen its military? Will Iran continue its adventurism in the Middle East and its support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups?
The Obama administration already has answered one criticism – that the deal would be a free pass for other misbehavior. On Sunday, it announced new, more limited sanctions on several Iranian companies and citizens for violating United Nations resolutions with two recent tests of ballistic missiles.
The world is a safer place now than it was before the deal – even if Republican candidates won’t say it.