Monthly Archives: March 2015

Iran Nuclear Deal – A Strategic Game Changer?

The upcoming visit of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to United States is interesting on several different levels.  Specifically with regards to the effect it might have on the final nuclear deal between Iran and the five plus one powers led by the United States.  The agreement itself has a chance to be one of those historic events that define the relationship between United States and Iran for the next several decades. Mr. Netanyahu attempts to derail the agreement only showcase the lack of strategic vision on his part and those who think like him.  Hopefully given the crucial nature of the agreement the United States will persevere and push through to achieve the initial resolution of the Iranian nuclear program. The final agreement no doubt will not be perfect, but it will be a much better outcome than for what Mr. Netanyahu and people like him for pushing for.  That is using military force to accomplish them same results.

The forces arrayed against the agreement use the following logic as the baseline for their opposition. That is that Iran is ruled by a fanatical regime that can not be a reasoned with. The premise of their opposition is that no matter what deal is struck Iran will still continue its work to build a nuclear weapon. Their solution to the problem is to continue the sanctions and an would even involve the use of military force to prevent the nuclear threshold from being crossed. The fallacy of such thinking was evident in Iraq. Unless we’re prepared to occupy Iran and conduct a long-term campaign costing thousands of U.S. casualties this course of action is a no starter. To pretend that this is a viable option is to live in the same world where Iraqis greeted us as liberators and the end result of our occupation was a free and democratic Iraq.

Their second complaint is the reductions of sanctions against Iranian regime. This of course would not make sense if the opponents of the deal truly believed the Iranian regime is fanatical and bent on Israel’s destruction regardless of consequences. And if that truly was the case then why would the Iranian regime care about the sanctions? They would just put up with the economic pain those sanctions inflicted and then just build a nuclear weapon anyway. The fact that the sanctions forced Iranians to the negotiating table means that the regime is not fanatical but rather responsive as other regimes are to the problems posed by sanctions. Therefore they can be dealt with. Unfortunately for people like Mr. Netanyahu he just doesn’t understand the concept, that not everything in the world is black and white but rather it is the different shades of gray. Luckily for the United States, our negotiating team and the decision makers behind them are actually looking to make a deal that will ensure both the U.S. interests and Iranian desires for a nuclear program are counterbalanced.

For those who demand a complete dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program are living in a fantasy world.  Psychologically, no Iranian leader would acquiesce to complete elimination of their nuclear program given the amount national pride such program generates.  As such they should be allowed a peaceful and verifiable nuclear program, which allows for an inspection regime that satisfies both parties. To pretend that air strikes could possibly do better than the coming agreement is fallacy.  The air strikes would only serve to reinforce the Iranian perception that the United States is only interested in the regime change in that country. That by itself could truly be the trigger point for Iranians to actually push towards a nuclear weapon as a method of regime survival.

The coming agreement between United States and Iran is important on two different levels.  First, a verifiable way to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.  Second, a possible change in the relationship dynamic between United States and Iran. Long-term the second portion is probably more important than the first. If, United States and Iran can find common ground, then the United States could possibly use Shiite Iran as the counterbalance to the Sunni Islamists such as ISIL.  In addition, US could use the new US/Iran relationship to put pressure on other Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia which support the Sunni Islamists across the Middle East to eliminate their support of Sunni extremists. Finally, it is truly ironic that we as a supporter of democracy are now aligned with authoritarian Saudi Arabia against Iran which actually does hold elections.  Not perfect elections but light years ahead of where Saudi Arabia is at right now.

It is still not a done deal that an agreement will be reached by the end of March.  However the fact that the two sides are close is a positive development. From the strategic point of view reaching an agreement with Iran would be one of the most strategically significant events of this decade. Even in the end if the Iranians cheat and try to develop nuclear weapons in secret from their civilian program, this will only give cause belle for any military action by the international community against them at a later date. For the United States, if a force has to be used, it should be used as part of a broad coalition similar to the first Gulf War.  Not as a coalition of the willing from the second Gulf War. That will only happen if we have the support of the international community on our side.  Which will only happen if we have shown that we exhausted all possibilities for a peaceful resolution which what the upcoming agreement aims to be.