Opinion Columns & Blogs

Millard Grimes: Let us honor peacemakers

Do not be confused by some of the rhetoric being thrown around about the historic agreement between Iran and six other major nations. It is an essential step to peace not only in the Middle East, but the entire world.

Keep in mind that the agreement is endorsed not just by the U.S., but also Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom (England) and Germany. No other international agreement in recent history has enjoyed such broad or diverse support.

It is designed mainly to delay Iran's nuclear program for 10 years at a minimum and indefinitely at a maximum. More importantly, the agreement lays a foundation for further agreements between the U.S. and Iran, which have been stalled for nearly 40 years and have the potential to improve living conditions in Iran and economic conditions in the U.S. and also in Europe.

Economic sanctions on Iran -- mainly at the insistence of the U.S. -- have punished Iran's people more than its government and delayed the progress it was making before the Islamic revolution of 1979.

The purpose of sanctions, of course, was to discourage Iran's development of its nuclear capability. The agreement announced last week keeps strict enforcement and inspection on nuclear development, better than the ones the U.N. levied on Saddam Hussein's Iraq when he was supposed to be developing "weapons of mass destruction."

There is also hope of an immediate end to the killing and destruction in the Middle East, bringing Iran into the community of nations and severing its connections with the terrorist groups it has been charged with supporting.

Already, Iranian aircraft are helping Syria in the fight Against ISIL, while also discouraging Saudi Arabia from further adventures in the area, such as sending troops to Yemen.

The so-called Arab Spring of a few years ago was hailed as a breakthrough for democratic tendencies in the Middle East, but the result has been more conflict and the emergence of extreme Islamic armies. As is often the case, overthrow of a strong leader is followed by chaos. A dominant government is needed in this area and the only possibilities seem to be Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Saudi Arabia needs to be discouraged. In many ways, it's the most backward, tyrannical nation in the area, particularly on the rights of women, who have been allowed only recently to drive cars. It is also well to remember that 19 of the 21 terrorists who flew planes into the Twin Towers and other U.S. targets on 9/11 were Saudis, born and raised there, and undoubtedly ingrained with their attitudes toward the U.S.

Over half of U.S. foreign aid for military purposes goes to just two countries, Israel and Egypt. Neither has been in a war in 40 years and their weapons are probably more dangerous as possible loot for terrorists than as protection of anyone.

The agreement between Iran and the six major nations provides a path not only to prevent a wider war, but to discourage the smaller disputes that plague so many Third World nations, such as Kenya, where a Somalia-based terrorist group attacked a school last week and killed 159 students, mostly Christian, whom they identified before immediately shooting them.

A strong and unified government can usually put down terrorists, who have little organized support and often use weapons made in the U.S., which remains the world's main arms dealer.

So let us honor those who seek peace, such as the negotiators in Lausanne last week, and not condemn them for falling short of perfection. There is no absolute protection from mankind's enduring compulsion to wage war, convinced that the killing those we perceive to be the enemy will bring satisfaction or more power. But written agreements are a start.

For many Americans, any achievement -- foreign or domestic -- by this administration is tainted by their distrust of President Obama, but along with Secretary of State Kerry, Obama has chosen a step toward peace, rather than the uncertainty of a failed negotiation.

Most of the world rejoiced at the news of the agreement. The only opposition seems to have come from some members of Congress in the U.S. and certain leaders in Israel, who actually have seen the threat of Iran lessened for them. What Israel most needs to make sure of is that the U.S. has Israel's back, which it has since 1948. Israel and Iran have much in common; if they could learn to cooperate, they would dominate the economy in the Middle East --and people could live in hope, rather than the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that permeates the entire region.

Millard Grimes, editor of the Columbus Enquirer from 1961-69 and founder of the Phenix Citizen. is author of "The Last Linotype: The Story of Georgia and Its Newspapers Since World War II."