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Iran nuclear deal debate draws students, enriches dialogue

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Martin Lopez, president of the Alexander Hamilton Society introduces guests before a debate on the Iran nuclear deal Wednesday at Saxbe Auditorium. Photo by Joely Friedman / Lantern reporter

Martin Lopez, president of the Alexander Hamilton Society introduces guests before a debate on the Iran nuclear deal Wednesday at Saxbe Auditorium. Photo by Joely Friedman / Lantern reporter

A debate on the recent Iran nuclear deal packed an auditorium of the Moritz College of Law Wednesday evening as Ohio State students quickly filled seats and even began lining the walls for a chance to listen in on the competing arguments.

The event at the Saxbe Auditorium presented possible implications of the recent deal between Iran and other world powers, including the United States, which aims to curb Iran’s nuclear capability.

The effectiveness of the deal has been a source of strong debate internationally as well as at home and in Congress. Some OSU students came into Wednesday’s debate still weighing the pros and cons.

“I haven’t yet made up my mind,” Wesley Swanson, a second-year in international studies, said as he walked into the auditorium. “I am hoping this event will help me to decide.”

The debate was hosted by the OSU chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society, a student organization that fosters constructive dialogue concerning contemporary national and international issues.

“In short, the Alexander Hamilton Society is really a place where great minds don’t think alike,” said Martin Lopez, president of the chapter and a third-year in political science, in an email.

The first speaker, Jeffrey Lewis, a senior lecturer for international studies at OSU, was in favor of the Iran nuclear deal.

“I support the congressional ratification because, from a strictly nonproliferation perspective, it gives us what we need,” he said. “We certainly don’t get everything that we would like to get, but we get what we need, which is reliable demilitarization of Iran’s program for 15 years.”

He added that the deal is only the beginning and should not be seen as the ultimate solution to the problem of the Iranian nuclear program.

“My position is that it’s not a perfect deal,” he said. “It’s a good deal, not a great one.”

Lewis said that after 15 years of the deal passing, most of the binding restrictions will be lifted and Iran will essentially become a normal country within the framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

“Economic sanctions will be lifted on Iran, which means that within months of lifting the sanctions, Iran will have access to more than $50 billion in assets that are currently frozen,” he said. “Iran will have the prospect of normalized trade relations and the reintroduction of Iranian oil and natural gas into the world market.”

Lewis told the students that “this deal should be seen as the beginning of an opportunity to use politics to solve problems in one of the most important parts of the world.”

The second speaker, Danielle Pletka, the senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, argued against the deal.

“According to the deal, in 10 years, Iran will have a clear pathway to lots of bombs, with much more sophisticated equipment, which we will have provided them, and they will have a military arsenal,” she said.

She said understanding the nature of the Iranian regime is important.

“We are not worried about other nuclear countries like Japan breaking out and nuking China, but we are worried about Iran breaking out and nuking somebody because they keep saying they are going to.”

The evening ended with the debate moderator, Peter Mansoor, the AHS faculty advisor, an OSU military history professor, and a CNN military analyst, giving the students advice on how to think about the deal.

“One way to look at this is to ask, ‘What are Iran’s intentions?’ ‘What will they be like 15 years from now?’ ‘What have they been like in the past?’ ‘Are they entering into this agreement in good faith?’” he said. “It will be up to you as you finish your studies, you will all be productive citizens. It will be up to you to make sure we understand all of the aspects this core deal has on our security.”

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