mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
President Obama's Iran Strategy
The Worst Possible Outcome

The U.S. and Iran are closing in on a nuclear agreement that would allow Iran a timeline for developing a nuclear weapon. According to the AP:

The United States and Iran are working on a two-phase deal that clamps down on Tehran’s nuclear program for at least a decade before providing it leeway over the remainder of the agreement to slowly ramp up activities that could be used to make weapons.

Officials from some of the six-power talks with Iran said details still needed to be agreed on, with U.S. and Iranian negotiators meeting Monday for the third straight day ahead of an end-of-March deadline for a framework agreement. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined the negotiations after arriving Sunday.

If this is true, it would be a template for setting off the biggest nuclear arms race ever. Given that the deal drops all barriers to the Iranian nuke program, the Saudis and others in the region are likely to step up their preparations. The Saudis in particular, as the wealthiest Sunni power, are well-positioned to tap the nuclear know-how of impoverished, Sunni Pakistan. And it’s hard to see the Turks abstaining from a regional nuclear arms race.

As Walter Russell Mead noted last week, “a process that began with the goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons has evolved into a plan to tolerate and restrict that capability.” It is quite possible that the most important foreign policy legacy of Barack Obama, who began his presidency by winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his nuclear non-proliferation efforts, will be the death of non-proliferation.

Features Icon
show comments
  • S.C. Schwarz

    The point is to delay the Iranian nuke until after Obama is out of office. Then he can blame it on someone else, with luck a Republican.

    • FriendlyGoat

      No, with “luck”, the successor to Obama is not a Republican.

      • S.C. Schwarz

        The Democrats need the Republicans to win the presidency every once in a while so they can blame all the bad stuff on someone else.

        • FriendlyGoat

          Maybe the “beltway” Dems need that for gamesmanship. Us actual people who are Dems NEVER need a Republican president.

  • rheddles

    Is there a reason we don’t want them to blow themselves all to Kingdom Come?

    • S.C. Schwarz

      As much as I don’t like the Iranians I don’t think a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is really a good idea.

  • TheRadicalModerate

    There’s an even worse outcome than the arms race.

    1) Obama concludes some sort of non-treaty agreement with Iran.
    2) Congress refuses to endorse it and attempts to legislate the reinstatement of sanctions.
    3) Obama vetoes the bill, of course.
    4) The Iranians take advantage of the remaining 18 months of chaos in Obama’s term to obfuscate the deal, right up to the edge of outright repudiation, then sprint for breakout, unencumbered by sanctions.

    Unfortunately, this seems like the most probable outcome.

    There is some faint hope that a robust deterrence regime can develop if the Middle East goes nuclear slowly. Most countries in the region have intensely urban populations, which eliminates any hope of surviving a nuclear war. (Of course, that only matters if governments behave rationally.) But all bets are off if Iran breaks out before its neighbors. Then we’re in a situation where Israel executing a preemptive nuclear strike on Iran’s production capability is a possibility.

    • Y.K.

      1) Your Iranian sprint scenario has nothing really to do with the preceding items. It depends solely on an Iranian decision – which Iran is likely to decide without any regard to Obama/Congress infighting. What can Obama do in response? Destroy his own ‘legacy’ and political standing by admitting the deal a failure? He will have no choice but to ignore this, until it is too late, at which point it is a done deal.

      2) Whatever some third-party states get nukes before Iran or not should not have any effect on Israeli decision making. Why should Israel feel more or less threatened from Iran because SA got nukes too?

      3) Your ‘faint hope’ scenario requires multiple unstable states to go nuclear. Worse, in order to make sure these countries get the bomb before Iran, one may have to actively aid them. That’s a way worse outcome than almost everything else, including an Iranian breakout. The result: a never-ending US effort to stabilize the countries involved – plus an Iraq style invasion to take care of real WMDs if and when jihadis get too strong.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Obama is the worst President in American History, no one else has ever been so weak and stupid.

    • GS

      that’s what happens from electing a civilizational alien.

  • Frank Natoli

    A nuclear Iran is the ultimate multi-cultural experiment. If the experiment is a failure, Liberals in Times Square, the Mall in DC and the Loop in Chicago will be the first to know.

  • Gawain de Leeuw

    What do the recently leaked Mossad Documents mean, given they seem to contradict Bibi’s assertions?

    • johne843

      US rapprochement with Iran, which is clearly in our long-term interests, would likely force the Saudi’s and Israel into a de facto security partnership. However, the only way this could take place would be for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. I think we know where Netanyahu stands on this issue. He wants the status quo at time when the middle east is completely transforming. History is not on his side. Plus he really, really, really, really wants to be Churchill.

      • AaronL

        A US rapprochement with Iran is impossible in the forseeable future.

        see Martin Indyk’s latest two part articles

        and part two

        In part two see this paragraph:

        However, it is fanciful to imagine that the United States could convince Iran to shift from the region’s most threatening revisionist power and become instead a partner in establishing a new order in the Middle East. It would require the Supreme Leader to overcome his extreme paranoia about the intentions of the United States and curb the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security—the regime’s mechanisms for pursuing its regional hegemonic ambitions. Any attempt at such a condominium would earn the United States the wrath of its traditional allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and their supporters in the Gulf Arab states and the U.S. Congress, respectively. Feeling betrayed, they would likely go their own way, acting without regard for U.S. interests.

    • Jojo Jobxyzone

      Who says the leak is genuine? Al jazeera say that the South Africans say that the Mosad told them. Maybe the Mosad bluffed. maybe the South Africans lied. Maybe al jazeera fibbed.

    • iconoclast

      News you can trust from Qatar? Seriously?

      • Gawain de Leeuw

        “If it comes from Qatar, it must be false” is not a very convincing argument, except when al-Jazeera reports about politics in Qatar. We lie about ourselves, and then tell the truth about others.

        The SSA has had, historically, close relations with Israel. Besides, for those paying attention, the Mossad Chief Meir Dagan has disagreed with Netanyahu publicly about Iran before. Not sure why this is surprising, except for those for whom Bibi is the Christ to Obama’s deviltry.

    • Y.K.

      They mean that some people completely lack critical reading skills.

      Hard to say what’s more improbable: That the Mossad would let SA (of all places) know what it’s really thinking (because a far African state is really relevant re: Iran), or that SA would leak like a sieve (because they have an interest in Iran and want to appear unreliable – NOT). Biggest irony is, that if we do take the documents seriously – what they actually say does not contradict Nethanyahu’s line at all[1].


    • AaronL

      they don’t contradict Bibi’s assertions. See the Times of Israel analysis below.

      Most nuclear experts reject the emerging Iran deal as a bad one.

  • Kevin

    This would really put Obama in the James Buchanan League for Presidential Legacy.

  • Anthony

    “The controversy over Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress has had the ironic effect of diverting attention from the very topic the Israeli prime minister wants to discuss: the problem with a potential deal on the Iranian nuclear program.”

  • Fat_Man

    This agreement means peace in our time.

    • adk

      Only if you narrow your time frame…say, three years.

  • Ellen

    What did anyone expect with John Kerry in charge of negotiations? This is the man who turned the Syria file over to Putin, who is arming the side in the civil war that is dropping barrel bombs on civilians. He then thought a fair resolution to the Gaza war was to build a port and resupply the side that started the way, Hamas, so they can continue fighting at a later date, after rebuilding their rocket supply. He then decides that a fair solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to create an Iranian proxy terror state in Judea and Samaria.

    Get real, the man wears a dunce cap. Unlike Obama, he can’t even pretend to be a pondering intellectual. He can’t even pretend to be capable of pondering at all. He had a lower grade-point-average at Yale than George W. Bush, and it shows.

  • AaronL

    Iran cannot be deterred. Read this article by a professional Israeli military strategist at the Hoover Institution website.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service