Editorial: Utah politicians attack Iran deal with no alternative

First Published      Last Updated Jul 17 2015 06:54 am

Utah politicians are in an exceptionally favorable position to offer independent, constructive critiques of the policies coming out of Washington and to make useful proposals for improvement. Or they would be if only they would take real advantage of their tradition of Western independence and their secure political position as Republican incumbents in a state that greatly favors both.

That is the kind of thing that happens when, for example, Sen. Orrin Hatch votes for comprehensive immigration reform. When Sen. Mike Lee pushes reforms in the criminal justice system. When Rep. Jason Chaffetz helps to create a common-sense way to collect sales taxes that are legally due and owing on interstate online commerce.

Sadly, what usually happens is that Utah's delegation can be counted on to offer a flood of knee-jerk condemnations — and no workable alternatives — to just about anything that comes out of the Obama administration.

Take, for example, the deal announced Tuesday aimed at taking the fangs out of the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

President Obama should be at pains to justify the agreement that the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia worked out with Iran. It is a complex deal that assumes implementation of a compliance regime that will take months to assemble and years to evaluate.

It may not work. If Iran cheats, the very unpleasant question of whether to attack that nation's nuclear facilities will still be before us. But even if the bombers do fly — now or 10 years from now — that would be no guarantee of a nuclear-free Iran. So the pact is well worth trying, if only because it stands to at least delay the threat of another costly and almost certainly pointless war in the Middle East.

Sadly, the Utahns in Congress were quick to condemn the deal. Chaffetz called it "totally unacceptable." Rep. Chris Stewart said, "It just makes me mad." Hatch objected, "Any deal that removes sanctions without robust means of ensuring the regime's disarmament and compliance ... is worse than no deal at all."

A claim that there is an obvious better choice, something both effective and feasible that Obama somehow missed, can only be predicated on the belief that the United States is omnipotent and has, or can ever hope for, the power to bend rich and technically advanced sovereign nations to our will.

Utah's elected officials should have the smarts, and the political capital, to explain to us that the hope for progress that Obama has tried to build with this pact may be the best we can reasonably hope for. Unless they'd rather go to war.