The holiday season stirs our compassion as we focus on those in need and greet strangers with best wishes. Beyond the food and gifts are the reminders of the promise of “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” “Swords will be turned into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks,” the Bible says, “And nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore,” or at least we hope so—and soon.
Since the 1979 fall of the Shah of Iran and takeover of that government by Muslim clerics, there has been little promise of peace. The attack on the U.S. embassy by Iranian militants that was central to those chaotic weeks and months has made relations nearly impossible. Now there’s a glimmer of hope.
The U.S. is on the verge of reaching a deal with Iran in which Iran agrees to halt expansion of its nuclear programs in exchange for eased economic sanctions. New York Times columnist and Middle East scholar Thomas Friedman describes the deal being offered by Secretary of State John Kerry as Iran’s chance to be a real power player rather than the kind of crazy rogue nation that North Korea is if it walks away from the nuclear weapon option.
The agreement is not without its doubters. The Israelis are suspicious that the U.S. will naively buy into Iranian promises, only to end up with Iran making its nuclear bomb while China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Russia fail to enforce the unprecedented monitoring and inspections meant to guard against further expansion. Some senators warn that the U.S. is buying into peace when there is no peace.
The truth is that no security arrangement is foolproof, Friedman pointed out in his column this week. All agreements involve at least some level of trust, and trust between the U.S. and Iran has been nonexistent for too long. That’s what will be put to the test in coming months.
While leaders negotiate to see if they can conclude a comprehensive agreement that addresses all concerns, there’s an important fact to keep in mind: Iran’s nuclear program will not move forward.
The doubters might be right, but it would be a terrible loss if we were to miss the chance to limit the nuclear threat in the Middle East. Peace can only happen when hope replaces fear. What better time to make that happen than the Christmas season.