On the Future of a Nuclear Negotiations with Iran
Previously published on Nov 29, 2013
Although the Obama Administration continues to push for immediate progress with Iran on its nuclear program, a short-term deal offered in November, 2013 is only an intermediate agreement that ensure talks can move forward. Maintaining a dialog with Iran and halting any progress on an Iranian nuclear weapon are important steps, but a treaty is only useful so long as it addresses the interests of the relevant parties. A future, long-term deal must address the world's most fundamental interest in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Due to America's global interests, the US, as well as the rest of the West, has great interest in resolving the Iranian nuclear issues. That said, countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel have even more immediate interests when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Speed only guarantees political credit is given to those who started negotiations, yet a nuclear deal must focus on minimizing Iran's future ability to build a nuclear weapon. The most apparent means of accomplishing this goal would be for Iran to give up its ability to enrich nuclear material.
With the Obama Administration struggling to bypass domestic gridlock in order to accomplish something and the Middle East in a period of chaotic flux, it would be nice to get the Iranian nuclear issue out of the way. Doing so might help prevent even greater political instability. That said, a superficial deal with Iran will do nothing to stabilize the region. It is also important to remember there is a revolutionary movement inside Iran that was brutally suppressed by the Iranian government just before the Arab Spring began. As such, the US must tread softly. Relieving political and economic pressure on the Iranian government is equivalent to empowering the Iranian government.
Fitting this latest development into the overall dialog of recent US engagement in the Middle East, it seems America is simply looking out for its interests as was perceived when the US agreed to ignore the Syrian People's most pressing needs in favor of destroying Assad's chemical weapons stockpiles, i.e. we failed to take action against Assad's military in order to address the International Community's concerns. This is a problem, because America needs to show the Peoples of the Middle East that the United States is a legitimate authority looking to build partnerships capable of serving our interests and their interests. As such, the US needs to make a really good long-term deal with Iran or walk away, because any deal will come with a hefty price in terms of PR.
This does not mean the United States must take an all-or-nothing approach. It means the interest of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon must eventually be served by guaranteeing Iran cannot build a nuclear weapon in the future. It also means the US should seek concessions that would allow opposition groups to operate more freely in Iran. Iran needs to reform; otherwise, a nuclear deal that can be undone in a few months or less will be worthless. Because Iran has bluntly refused to dismantle its ability to enrich, the best possible deal at this time is likely one that keeps a dialog open between the West and Iran while halting Iran's progress on its nuclear program until a permanent deal can be reached.