What if the Iranian Deal Fails?
By Aaron Shenhar*
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 @ 10:26PM
The Unbearable Risk of the Nuclear Deal with Iran.
There is no question that the nuclear deal with Iran is risky. Even its supporters, and of course Obama himself, admit that it may not work. The question of course, is the extent of risk and the cost we would pay in case of failure. Opponents and supporters would clearly disagree on the extent of risk, but it is reasonable to assume that just based on their recent statements; Obama’s supporters would rank the risk at 20% or even higher. As we will see, that level is unacceptable.
To be clear, no matter how much we predict the chances of success are, we must also assess the cost of failure. That has rarely been the subject of debate between the sides, but it must be openly discussed and put on the table.
People mention that in his early years Obama was a masterful Poker player. In Poker you may lose a game or two, but still come out on top. However, no human lives are involved. World conflicts are not a Poker game. Even losing once may have detrimental consequences to the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Modern sciences in our society have created analytical ways to look at risk, and employ them to make more intelligent decisions. Economical models are frequently applied to compare risk and opportunity of investments, and if the expected gain is higher than the loss, you may sign the deal. Similarly, medicine is constantly assessing the risk of treating an illness with drugs or surgery, compared to the alternatives of not treating the disease. If the benefit is bigger than the risk, treatment is recommended. And in engineering, products, and software development, companies are often knowingly launching mildly defective products, just to be ahead of the game, assuming that defects could be corrected later.
However, there is an indisputable exception, representing a line that no one will cross: When the risk involves human lives. Can you imagine building an airplane that crashes 20% of the time? Or releasing a medicine, which kills 20% of the people who take it? Obviously accidents and mistakes happen, but no company would consciously launch a product that may kill people even one hundred’s of the times. Why not apply the same principles to the Iranian deal? In fact, these are the only lenses with which this deal should be examined today.
The parallels to the 1938 Munich agreement are of course unavoidable. Signing a deal with a dictator that openly threatens the security of Europe and plans to eliminate all Jews from the face of the Earth was of course a huge mistake. Hitler obviously “fulfilled” his promises, and many millions, including 400,000 Americans have lost their lives in the most deadly war of all times. Is there a doubt that if Hitler had the Bomb, he would have used it? Teheran still does not have the Bomb and the free world could still stop it.
So what happens if the deal is signed and fails? If most Americans don’t believe Iran’s leaders, why make the deal? In fact, we have a good reason not to believe the Iranians mullahs who are not playing by the western rules of embracing freedom and respecting agreements. Aren’t we better off today than we would be when Iran carried out its intentions? At this time we still have the best position to prevent failure and avoid massive loss of human life – the scansions are on, and Iran is still weak. Even the most optimistic scenario of failure will lead to a new chaotic world, in which Iran will try to fulfill its promises, and the most sensitive region in the world will turn nuclear and deadly. Can anyone imagine the cost of such failure?
When this happens, Obama will no longer be in office. His legacy may then be sealed, but he would not pay the price. The numerous people that would be hurt, the nations that would be threatened, and even the American soldiers that would probably be sent to the region, would pay the price.
While the deal may succeed, the cost of failure would be unacceptable for our society and our children. Let’s not launch an airplane that crashes “only” 20% of the time. If “failure is an option,” we must stop this game immediately.
* Aaron Shenhar is a Professor of Business and Leadership