In a letter to the editor in last week’s issue, Neill Ackerman, Ph.D., argued that the we in the United States need to start trusting the Iranian government and realize that “the words and the deeds of the government of Iran should be taken as true and should leave no doubt that they are not developing a bomb.”
I agree with Ackerman’s conclusion that the United States and our allies must pass the deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program. This deal would hopefully begin to chip away at Iran’s pariah status and will allow more time for the Islamic Republic to change from the inside, for its citizens to begin to pull back their support from the hard-liners.
We differ in our reasoning, however. Ackerman argues that when Iranian leaders say they will not build a bomb, we should trust them. He claims we should trust them because some of the leaders follow through on their other rhetoric: they support the Alawite regime in Syria; they arm Hamas; they continue to blatantly call for the destruction of America and Israel.
But we need to finalize the right deal with Iranian leaders precisely because we should not, and do not, trust their government. Their underground nuclear reactors (“housed … most likely to prevent them from having a nuclear disaster like the one in Japan,” according to Ackerman) may very well be enriching uranium for a bomb. We have no real way of knowing that. And the simple fact of the matter, which Ackerman fails to recognize, is that Iranian leaders can say one thing and do another: people do it all the time, politicians do it all the time, and it doesn’t seem to be too far a stretch that our greatest enemy might lie to the leaders of the state which they so vocally despise.
But that is why we need a deal. Because it could give us time to grow to trust Iran, or at least open the door to working with its government. And because in the meantime, while we should not trust them, the international community will have full access to inspecting their nuclear facilities.
At the crucial time when we should under no circumstances trust our enemy’s word, we’re sitting on the brink of a deal that would allow us to do just that: withhold our trust for a time and maintain access to the most unstable and potentially dangerous sector of Iranian society. And if the United States government uses more “taxpayer money” than expected to house our officials in Switzerland while they negotiate the most important international agreement of this century, then so be it.