Bwog Attends: “Iran: Deal or No Deal” Debate

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This Thursday, the Alexander Hamilton Society hosted a debate on the Iran nuclear deal featuring panelists David Phillips, Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia’s ISHR and a former UN and US State Department adviser, and Danielle Pletka, a Vice President for Foreign and Security Studies at the neoconservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute. Free Five Guys was offered as well.

With the event advertised as a “very fiery debate,” perhaps the fieriest aspect of this debate was the unexpected amount of bad jokes. Phillips opened the discussion by conceding that while the event was conceived as a debate, his “training and temperament [was] in conflict resolution,” drawing sustained guffaws from the audience. Nevertheless, this “conflict resolution” later proved unnecessary as the event went on and Phillips and Pletka both realized they held similar views.

Asked to comment on topics like President Trump’s simultaneous non-certification and non-termination of the JCPOA deal, as well as what their ideals of a better yet still realistic situation looked like, both panelists came to the conclusion that they agreed on many points: that Trump’s current handling of the affair is a non-strategy, that the deal is better than no deal but still holds many flaws, and that while Iran’s nuclear capabilities are disabled in the short run, they still possess much of the infrastructure needed to develop nuclear weapons in the long run.

Citing iconic Donald Trump quotes like his labeling of the JCPOA as the “worst deal ever,” Phillips and Pletka both portrayed the foreign policy currently possessed by the US as incoherent and weak. Phillips referenced Trump’s actions as “betraying the spirit of the deal” – which was to coerce Iran to voluntarily move towards more peaceful relations, while Pletka criticized Trump for doing nothing but keeping JCPOA intact from the Obama era.

Furthermore, Pletka and Phillips reiterated throughout the event a large concern over the long-term viewpoints of Iran. Both pointed to the desperation on behalf of Obama-administration diplomats that led to some stopgap solutions for the short term, but many unnecessarily concessive clauses that will allow Iran to possess some nuclear latency, with both citing the sunset clauses of the JCPOA. In specific, Pletka asserted that “Iran’s not interested in being North Korea, they’re interested in being Japan.”

While its “fiery debate” aspect proved lackluster, the event was still an overall enjoyable and great program put on by the Hamilton Society. As someone with only a foundational knowledge of the Iran nuclear deal and its implications, I explored the issue a lot more deeply, learned not to judge a book (even a neocon one) by its cover, and received some free Five Guys, at worst.

Some of my personally favorite quotes from the event:

“Since we are talking about Iran and the nuclear deal, I reserve my right to my nuclear option.”  – Moderator

“The Sunnis kinda suck.” – Pletka

“We have all already forgotten everything about Hillary Clinton.” – Pletka


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