The interim deal John Kerry and the leaders of other major powers has struck with Iran may not gain him kudos in Congress, but it beats any alternative that reasonable opponents of the deal have proposed.
Iran is not agreeing to forego any nuclear program. It says it wants to keep a program going for nonmilitary purposes. But it is accepting restrictions that make it unlikely it will be in a position to produce nuclear weapons any time soon.
Iran is to reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent for 15 years and cut its installed centrifuges by more than two-thirds for 10 years.CartoonsCartoonists on the Iran negotiationsCartoonMatt Davies' latest cartoon: Bill and Donald's bindersCommentSubmit your letter
Iran is agreeing to destroy most of its centrifuges and to enrich uranium to levels that suffice for civilian nuclear use but won't do for a bomb. Iran is to give up nearly the entirety of its existing stockpile of enriched uranium.
Iran is also agreeing to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The acceptance of inspection is broader than most observers expected Kerry to get.
These restrictions are stunning. They represent major compromises on Iran's part. The deal is much closer to the American starting position than to Iran's.
Iran will get relief from sanctions, but not right away. The arrangement on sanctions relief also seems more favorable to the West than to Iran. Relief will come only in phases, and only as Iran is seen to be complying.
Nonetheless, the eventual lifting of sanctions will come as welcome relief to the general population in Iran, which wants their current nightmare to end.
Kerry has wisely kept the nuclear issue separate from concerns about Iran's activities in the wars that seem to be popping up on a daily basis in countries near its borders.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says that negotiations with Iran should encompass both the nuclear issue and Iran's role in those conflicts.
If all that is put into the mix, there will never be a deal on the nuclear issue, as Netanyahu well knows. His suggested approach is aimed at killing a deal with Iran on the nuclear issue.
Some members of Congress say we can't trust Iran, no matter what it puts down on paper. But it will be hard for Iran to get around the restrictions to which it has agreed, even if it tries.
Hopefully, Congress will refrain from trying to scuttle the deal and ramp up sanctions on Iran. That would only get Congress into a tug-of-war down Pennsylvania Avenue. President Obama would veto, and it is unlikely Congress could override.
Polls conducted prior to the deal showed that the American public supports a negotiated arrangement with Iran, even if verification were less than ironclad.
This deal looks better for the West than what most were expecting, in terms of both the extent of what Iran is accepting and enforcement. The content of this deal should put the skeptics in Congress on the defensive.
If Congress still worries about enforceability, I have an idea. The incentive for states like Iran to acquire nuclear weapons is typically to match nuclear weapons held by rival powers. Pakistan and India each like having nuclear weapons since the other does, but neither is likely to use them.
A country acquiring nuclear weapons doesn't plan to fire them off, but they don't want to be bullied.
House Majority leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, seems to be on a first name basis with Netanyahu. Perhaps he could ask the Israeli prime minister to let the IAEA inspect his nation's nuclear weapons facility at Dimona in the Negev Desert. Israel has plenty of fully deliverable nuclear bombs.
If Israel's bombs could be kept in check, maybe anyone in Tehran who wants the bomb would lose support. Just a thought.
John B. Quigley is distinguished professor of law at The Ohio State University.