Professor of Leadership Studies Eugene Gholz and Professor Alan Kuperman of the University of Texas at Austin met Thursday at 7 p.m. to debate the merits of the Iranian nuclear deal, which the United States agreed to in July. The Stanley Kaplan Program in American Foreign Policy and the department of political science hosted the event, which took place in Griffin 3.
At the University of Texas at Austin, Kuperman teaches courses in global policy studies and coordinates the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project. He conducts research on ethnic conflict, nuclear nonproliferation and U.S. military intervention. He has written the books The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda and Nuclear Terrorism and Global Security: The Challenge of Phasing Out Highly Enriched Uranium. He previously taught at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Bologna, Italy. He has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard, a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins SAIS and a doctorate degree from MIT.
In the debate, both speakers were allowed 15 minutes to state their position, followed by a brief period for rebuttal. The event concluded with questions from the audience.
The Iran nuclear deal includes several agreements that lift economic sanctions that previously hindered the growth of the Iranian nuclear program. In exchange for these concessions, Iran agreed to participate in a system of frequent inspection and observation of its facilities and to follow the strict international laws surrounding nuclear development.
Gholz highlighted the significance of the deal. “Whatever you come out of this thinking about, whether you agree with me or you agree with Alan [Kuperman] here, it’s an important issue, and you should have a view on it,” Gholz said.
Gholz, a proponent of the deal, explained his ideas for the two possible cases – the case in which the United States rejected the deal and the other in which the United States accepted it. Had the United States declined the deal, other allied countries would have gone forward with its terms anyways, Gholz said. Gholz also emphasized that the current deal was the only option and that no better deal could have been made.
Gholz explained that by accepting the deal, the United States endorsed measures to help the Iranian economy. In addition, Gholz noted, the United States will benefit from the support of this international coalition. “The United States is much better off in the big picture of international diplomacy, not just with respect to Iran, if we take the deal,” he said.
Kuperman, an opponent of the deal, began his statement by providing the audience with the historical context of the current situation. He argued that it is better to coerce, not appease, Iran.
“What we should have done is issue an ultimatum. Say to Iran, halt this fuel cycle program for uranium and plutonium, or we’ll bomb you,” he said.
According to Kuperman, the deal, which forgives all of Iran’s past transgressions and infractions of international uranium and plutonium laws, goes further by rewarding Iran with looser restrictions. Kuperman also explained how under the deal, Iran will be able to speed up its plans and develop a functional bomb in as little as three months.
Gholz began the rebuttals, asserting that Kuperman’s suggestion of coercion instead of appeasement would not be effective. He said that this would only further motivate Iran to obtain its own nuclear weapons. “The argument for rejecting the deal and going with military force really fails fundamentally because the key issue is not to influence Iranian capability, [but] to try to influence their intent and prepare for the downside,” Gholz said.
Kuperman pushed back against this argument, explaining that while appeasement has the potential to work and that Iran could potentially agree to cooperate fully with the United States and its allies, the evidence that this would actually happen is almost nonexistent.
Kuperman also explained that he does not favor military strikes but that the threat of these strikes would have been enough to convince Iran to back down. Kuperman added that a covert regime change in Iran is necessary to change thought in the country.
“I would support a very robust program of covert action to produce regime change in Iran, and that may be the best choice left as a result of Obama’s ill-conceived nuclear appeasement of revolutionary Iran,” Kuperman said.