In the heart of blue America — New York City — Mark Dubowitz and Mike Doran debated Philip Gordon and Thomas Pickering on whether the Iran deal is good for the United States. The way these things work is that the side that moves opinion the most from pre- to post-debate polling wins. In this case, Dubowitz and Doran won, moving opinion against the deal from 19 to 43 percent. The deal defenders gained just 13 points (from 37 to 50 percent).
The debate is hugely instructive and entertaining and can be viewed in its entirety, but I will note some high points and try to draw some lessons for future debates in and outside Congress.
Dubowitz set the tone for the debate by listing seven things (he dubbed them the seven "deadly flaws") that rendered the framework a bad deal. These include leaving Iran with 6,100 centrifuges; "[giving] up on long-standing U.S. policy and multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and they gave Iran domestic enrichment"; allowing Iran's intercontinental ballistic missile program to continue; allowing Iran to keep Fordow; the sunset clause; incomplete verification and inspection; and oversight conducted by the U.N. Security Council and not the International Atomic Energy Agency. The defenders argued that we haven't yet given up on some of these issues (just wait!). On disclosure of possible military dimensions, an issue essential for inspection, Dubowitz argued:
"Unless you understand what the program was, you can't monitor it. The fact of the matter is the Iranians have stiffed the IAEA for a decade about this. We have not stood firm on it. We have not forced them to come clean on their past program. And the agreement that we got from them about that is that, yes, they will address that question in the future. I'm willing to bet anything — I'm going to make a prediction right here, Phil. And my prediction is that if this deal is signed, we're going to give them sanctions relief before they ever come clean on their past program, because they have never ever come clean and they're not going to let us into military sites."
Pickering began to argue that Iran had come clean but was forced to concede its disclosures are still incomplete. In short, Dubowitz made a strong case that the deal is a bad one.
There was then the issue of what else can be done. Aside from the Obama administration's own assertion that no deal is better than a bad deal, Doran argued: "What I want is an American side that will, A, behave like a great power, and B, not give the store away, that will use the leverage that it has to get the best kind of deal, the kind of deal that Mark described." The defenders tried to assert we had not caved again and again, but on this the critics had the upper hand — because of facts. ("I can sit here and I can tell you, with absolute certainty, and I will be correct on this, there has been a pattern of concession, unilateral concession from the United States, and in forcing our partners along. . .") Later in the debate Dubowitz argued:
"The fact of the matter is we should increase the sanctions. We continue to ratchet up the pressure. We didn't have to stick at zero enrichment, but we could have offered exactly what President Obama offered in the beginning, which was 500 to 1,000 centrifuges. Why the willingness on the part of the United States to continue to diminish our nuclear demands step by step? The fact is that the Iranians fear U.S. escalation dominance. They began in 2003 negotiating the Europeans over 13 years. They only increased their operating centrifuges by 9,500. That's about 700 centrifuges a year. They increased their program incrementally. They fear escalation dominance. They fear our crippling sanctions. 20:11:56 They fear our military power. . . . And most importantly, we could have stuck to our nuclear demands."
Read the full article here.