Tom Friedman’s last op-ed, “Look Before Leaping,” in the NYT laid out pros and cons of a nuclear agreement with Iran. However, I don’t think he sufficiently recognizes the downside of a possible war if we don’t get an agreement. John Bolton’s recent op-ed in the NYT, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” shows that there is sentiment for attacking Iran, in almost any case, deal or no deal, but the chances of a military attack on Iran certainly are higher if there is no agreement than if there is no agreement. If there is no military attack, Iran’s obligations under the standard Non-Proliferation Treaty agreements would allow it to develop its nuclear capability up to the last few steps required to build an atomic bomb. In addition, the other parties to the negotiations — Russia, China and the Europeans — are unlikely to maintain sanctions if the deal fails, removing much of the pressure on Iran to bow to Western demands.
Friedman focuses mainly on whether an agreement is likely to bring Iran into the community of civilized nations and thus reduce its trouble-making in the Middle East. He finds arguments on both sides, probably correctly. But turning Iran into a responsible member of the international community is not the only issue. There are also those atomic bombs to worry about. Unfotunately, I think this makes Friedman’s analysis faulty, and I worry that it is faulty for a reason.
Tom Friedman’s analysis may be colored by the fact that he is Jewish. It may simply be that he is under tremendous pressure from other Jews to support the Israeli line that any Iran deal is terrible and that the only solution to the Iranian nuclear problem is to bomb Iran. I respect Friedman for his long reporting on the Middle East and his personal neutrality in the Arab-Israeli conflict. He did exemplary reporting from Lebanon and Israel for the New York Times. That’s why when I detect even a little pro-Israel bias in his column, I suspect that he is under tremendous pressure. I don’t worry about Friedman so much as a do about all the other reporters and policy makers in Washington who have less integrity than Friedman.