Dealing with a Bad Iranian Nuclear Agreement

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) James F. Jeffrey - The U.S. will likely agree soon on a limited-duration agreement with Iran that aims to provide around one year of warning time before any breakout to nuclear weapons capability - a deal that Israel and many other regional states would view as a victory for the Islamic Republic and an eventual danger to all. If the administration signs an agreement with Iran, Congress or regional allies can do little to force it to back down. Active congressional support would not be required to sign and implement a nuclear agreement, at least during the Obama administration. Although keeping all options on the table is the White House's stated policy, it has little credibility because the administration constantly describes any U.S. military action as "war," deliberately conjuring up fears of a new Iraq-like quagmire. But any attack on Iran almost certainly would not involve U.S. ground troops, the prime generator of casualties. While the administration tends to emphasize Iran's formidable asymmetrical capabilities, including terrorism and missile attacks on Israel, this ignores America's significant "escalation dominance" and consequent ability to retaliate against the very sinews of Iran's command and infrastructure. Also open to question is the argument that attacking Iran's nuclear facilities is all but useless because the regime would supposedly rebuild quickly and then be even more motivated to achieve nuclear weapons status. The U.S. military "stick" has thus far been deterring the U.S. instead of Iran. A great deal of circumstantial evidence has emerged indicating that the administration hopes to use a nuclear agreement as leverage for "flipping" Iran into a "status quo" state or even a partner in promoting stability. Such an approach would dramatically shift the regional security architecture: for the better if Iran supports international order, and dramatically for the worse if an unleashed Iran pursues hegemony without a U.S. counter. Smart betting should be on the latter. The writer, a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute, served as U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor and Ambassador to Iraq, Turkey, and Albania.

2015-03-05 00:00:00

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