By December 1, 2013 Read More →
The Iran Deal: Beyond Nuclear Proliferation

The Iran Deal: Beyond Nuclear Proliferation

The interim agreement reached on November 24 in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear program has been greeted by most as a step in the right direction. In exchange for limited relief from some international sanctions, Iran has committed to rolling back parts of its nuclear program and freezing others, while allowing for IAEA inspections. As the editors at MERIP observed,

The chief executives in both Tehran and Washington are all smiles, with Hassan Rouhani stressing the moderate sanctions relief he achieved 99 days into his presidency and Barack Obama boasting of blocking “Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb.” The respective chanceries are also pleased, with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointing to “two distinct places” where the Geneva text implicitly recognizes Iran’s right to enrich uranium and Secretary of State John Kerry claiming the deal as proof that the coercive diplomacy of sanctions paved the way for negotiations. Cheering crowds welcomed Zarif home from Switzerland at the Tehran airport, while ex-US official Zbigniew Brzezinski tweeted that Obama and Kerry are the “best policy team” since George H. W. Bush and James Baker. Russia and China signed on, too. Oil prices fell. Stock markets rose, even in Israel.

The political response of America’s staunch allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia, has been somewhat less enthusiastic. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for one, has labelled the deal a “historic mistake”. As for the Saudis, writes F. Gregory Gause, a less adversarial public response betrays a deep sense of disillusion with recent developments:

The Saudis have no allies in American politics to rally against the Obama Administration, and no desire to set themselves against the other international powers who signed the agreement, including their security partners France and Great Britain, their fellow oil producer Russia, and their major oil customer China. But they are as unhappy as the Israelis, if for slightly different reasons. The Saudis are not merely concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. They have a more profound fear: that geopolitical trends in the Middle East are aligning against them, threatening both their regional stature and their domestic security.

For some insights on the wider strategic and geopolitical implications of the deal, a recent article by veteran Middle East scholar Mohammed Ayoob is worth turning to. Ayoob persuasively makes the case that the impact of the deal is likely to go far beyond the nuclear proliferation arena:

While the question whether the deal has prevented Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons capability or has merely postponed the inevitable by a few months or years will continue to be debated, one should not ignore the wider strategic consequences of the agreement for several reasons.

It has demonstrated unequivocally that on vital strategic issues in which U.S. and Israeli interests diverge Washington does possess the residual political will to make hard decisions in the teeth of Israeli opposition, something that analysts of all hues had doubted for a long time. This may signal the beginning of the unraveling of the prevailing myth that U.S. policy toward the Middle East is shaped in Tel Aviv and not in Washington. It also explodes the myth that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is an all-powerful force when it comes to fashioning U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Its consequences, therefore, go beyond the Iranian nuclear issue and are likely to impact public perceptions in the United States and abroad regarding the deadlock over the Palestinian issue and the likely direction of U.S. policy on the unending Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This explains Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s uncompromising hostility toward the Geneva agreement even at the expense of doing grave damage to Israeli-U.S. relations.

Continue reading… Consequences of the Iran Deal

Read More:

Handshakes in Geneva – MERIP

F. Gregory Gause – Why the Iran deal Scares Saudi Arabia – The New Yorker

Ali Ansari – The bloom is off the rose: Iran’s first 100 days of Rouhani – Al Jazeera

Trita Parsi – Going to Tehran – Al Jazeera

Sir Richard Dalton – Iran and the US learned the lessons of failure – The Telegraph


Posted in: Iran, Middle East

About the Author:

William Oliver is Nabateans’ editor for international economics and Middle East current affairs. He obtained his degree in History from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. While his studies focused on the Middle East in the 18th and 19th centuries, William has a long-standing interest in international finance and the political economy of development. William’s work is aimed at understanding how the Middle East integrates with the global economy, and into the wider geopolitical landscape.

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