Carlos Barria / Reuters Iran's President Hassan Rouhani attends a news conference at a hotel in Shanghai, May 22, 2014.

Iranian Politics After the Deal

Why It Is Time for Optimism

The historic nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 negotiators announced on July 14 is a transformative event for the Middle East, a victory for U.S. nonproliferation strategy, and will surely be one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s most consequential foreign policy achievements.

Auspicious as this occasion is, though, there is no guarantee that the agreement will survive, given how contentious the implementation phase is likely to be. Nor can the deal by itself end the lingering animosity between the United States and Iran, which predates the nuclear program. The landmark nuclear agreement will only be sustainable if it continues to serve the national interests of both countries. And here, if they think beyond their strategic divorce in 1979 and the recent deal itself, they will realize that they have much to gain from improved ties—and that the agreement will be crucial to this process.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with foreign ministers and delegations from Germany, France, China, Britain, Russia and the European Union at a hotel in Vienna, July 13, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with foreign ministers and delegations from Germany, France, China, Britain, Russia and the European Union at a hotel in Vienna, July 13, 2015.

To be sure, those in Tehran and Washington who oppose the deal—and those countries in the Middle East that have benefited from Iranian-U.S. estrangement—won’t make things easy. Still, the agreement is a risk worth taking, considering how unattractive the other alternatives are. Indeed, although the United States and Iran did not get everything they wanted in the negotiations, the agreement is the best they could possibly attain at this juncture. It is a “win-win” for both countries, and a triumph of diplomacy and hope over war and cynicism.

TURN DOWN FOR WHAT?

As Congress begins deliberations about the agreement, opponents will relentlessly lobby legislators to reject the deal on the grounds that it has not closed all pathways to a nuclear bomb and has legitimized Iran as a threshold nuclear power. But they will not be able to offer a viable alternative to it. Should Congress vote to reject the agreement anyway, Obama has promised to veto their decision. Overriding his veto would require a 2/3 majority in both houses of Congress, which is unlikely. Moreover, doing so would profoundly tarnish

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