The deal on Iran’s nuclear program reached and announced on Bastille Day seems to be a bit of a mixed bag. The Obama administration is touting it as a win as it limits Iran’s ability, in theory at least, to develop nuclear weapons for the next ten years. Although it reduces its stockpiles of enriched uranium and mothballs its centrifuges the possibility for Iran to cheat on the deal exists. Would they do that? Various spokesmen have indicated that the inspection regime is tight enough to prevent cheating from happening.
Certainly from a moral point of view the Iranians are well known to practice the doctrine of taqiya or dissimulation. The Iranians have a deep seated belief that they are superior to us and that they have no reservations about lying to us. This sense that there is no immorality in lying to the West is reinforced by Islamic ideology which holds that there is no shame in lying to infidels (kuffar).
On the other hand, based on my own experience in the region, at least in the banking sphere, the Iranian government or their state owned banks were the best payers and never breached any financial contracts into which they entered. As a result there is some circumstantial evidence that the Iranian Government may well keep its word. Also, as has been pointed out Iran never withdrew from the nuclear non proliferation treaty which they have, in fact not breached.
The reaction of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who described the agreement as an “historic mistake” is probably unnecessarily histrionic. I assume that it is the opening salvo in a campaign by Israel and its supporters in the US Congress to try to derail the deal. This attempt is unlikely to succeed as they do not have the votes. Is Iran a potential existential enemy of Israel? Yes but it appears that this deal buys 10-15 years and much can happen in that time.
Is Iran still an enemy of the United States? Yes and this deal will, in my opinion further strengthen Iran in the region. The Iranians took this deal because it will improve their economy which they are desperate to do both to reduce domestic discontent but also to enhance their ability to wage proxy wars in the Middle East. If the Obama administration thinks that this deal will lead to an opening with Iran such as Nixon did with China they are seriously deluded. Iran will continue to work against US interests in the region and will continue to try to change the balance of power there in their favor.
Currently Iran is supporting Shi’i or Shi’i splinter groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. These groups are all engaged in a war with various Sunni groups. It is not in our interest to become aligned with Iran in this struggle. The short term hysteria gripping many in the West about the activities of the Islamic State is driving this tilt but it is a bad policy. We need to be more involved in redrawing the map of the region so that it better reflects the ethnic and sectarian differences that exist there. That includes Iran and is a better path to stability than merely playing high tech whack a mole.
Unfortunately the current administration doesn’t have the vision and the American people the stomach to lead this effort.
To conclude, this deal is no Munich as it has been called by its opponents. Obama will get the foreign policy legacy he so desperately craves. It will most likely postpone a major military confrontation with Iran for some time but not eliminate it. Israel will not be destroyed in the short term. It will strengthen Iran’s ability to wage its proxy wars and expand Shi’i influence in the region. It will further alienate the US from its long term allies in the region, particularly Sa’udi Arabia and it gives the US a further reason not to engage with Sunni dissident elements in Syria and Iraq that could lead to a better alternative state than that created by the Islamic State.