The Iran Deal and Its Consequences

(Wall Street Journal) Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz - For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests - and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran. The one-year window concept for a presumed Iranian breakout, emerging at a relatively late stage in the negotiation, replaced the previous baseline - that Iran might be permitted a technical capacity compatible with a plausible civilian nuclear program. The new approach complicates verification because of the vagueness of the criteria. Some of the chief actors in the Middle East are likely to view the U.S. as willing to concede a nuclear military capability to the country they consider their principal threat. Saudi Arabia has signaled that it will insist on at least an equivalent capability. A "proliferated" Middle East could become host to a plethora of nuclear-threshold states, several in mortal rivalry with each other. Among the original nuclear powers, geographic distances and the relatively large size of programs combined with moral revulsion to make surprise attack all but inconceivable. How will these doctrines translate into a region where sponsorship of nonstate proxies is common and death on behalf of jihad is a kind of fulfillment? Having both served in government during a period of American-Iranian strategic alignment, we would greatly welcome such an outcome. But there exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such an understanding. Iran's representatives (including its Supreme Leader) continue to profess a revolutionary anti-Western concept of international order; domestically, some senior Iranians describe nuclear negotiations as a form of jihad by other means. The final stages of the nuclear talks have coincided with Iran's intensified efforts to expand and entrench its power in neighboring states. Tehran occupies positions along all of the Middle East's strategic waterways and encircles archrival Saudi Arabia, an American ally. Unless political restraint is linked to nuclear restraint, an agreement freeing Iran from sanctions risks empowering Iran's hegemonic efforts. The writers are former U.S. secretaries of state.

2015-04-08 00:00:00

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