Iranian students formed a human chain to defend their country's nuclear program in 2013 outside the Fordow Uranium Conversion Facility in the northern part of the country.
CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI / AFP / Getty Images
By Mark Thompson
August 11, 2015

They say close only counts with nuclear weapons. That’s something to keep in mind amid the increasingly rancorous debate over the pending atomic accord the U.S. and five other nations have struck with Iran.

Let’s face it: nuclear weapons are the only true weapon of mass destruction. Next to a nuclear blast, biological, chemical and conventional terror attacks are also-rans.

Seeking limits on nuclear weapons should not be confused with important, but less critical, aspects, like the unsavory aspects of one’s negotiating partner.

“It’s pretty evident that the single greatest threat to the region was their getting the nuclear weapon,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday. “So we focused on getting rid of the nuclear weapon. Nothing, however, has been diminished in our ability to push back against them on their arms trafficking, their support for terror, their proxies that they send in to other countries, the things that happen in their support for Assad, their messing around with the Iraqi Shia.”

This is where the debate over the wisdom of the proposed Iranian accord has foundered. Instead of focusing on the physics—what is the best way to keep nuclear weapons out of the mullahs’ hands—the increasingly bitter fight in Washington is being derailed by opponents of the deal who cite Iran’s support for Hezbollah, and its oft-stated desire to destroy Israel, as justification for their opposition. That’s akin to arguing that the thug who knifed you in the past shouldn’t be deterred from trying to get a gun.

“A vote for this deal means more money for Iranian terrorism,” warns Robert Bartlett, a former U.S. Army sergeant. He was seriously wounded in Iraq in 2005, apparently by an Iranian explosively-formed penetrator, a sophisticated roadside bomb that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. “What do you think they are going to do when they get more money?” he asks in a video from the newly-formed Veterans Against the Deal.

One can’t help but acknowledge Bartlett’s point. Yet the Iran deal isn’t about doing Iran a favor. It’s about doing what is best for the U.S. and the other five nations on its side.

There are weaknesses in the proposed pact. It allows Iran to remain a nuclear-threshold state, and scraps sanctions that frees funding that could fund mayhem. President Obama has over-played his hand by arguing that those opposed to the deal are pushing for another U.S.-led war in the religious tinderbox that is the greater Middle East.

But that’s all underbrush. The proposal strips nearly all of Iran’s nuclear-development program naked. It would give Washington and the rest of the world far more knowledge about Tehran’s nuclear schemes than it has today, and inspection regimes to keep an eye on them for at least a decade. The pact’s secondary flaws are no reason to derail the primary goal of denying Iran a nuclear weapon.

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