Regarding the framework for a nuclear deal with Iran, the first thing to consider is how close they are to obtaining a nuclear weapon. Some say its imminent (Benjamin Netanyahu) while others say it is 3 years out. The Obama administration does not believe it is imminent which then raises the question as to why they entered into negotiations at this time. I believe the answer is that Obama needed a justification for that Nobel Peace Prize that will soon hang in his presidential library.
Once they entered actual negotiations, there was no turning back. As this administration has proven repeatedly, even if a bad deal was reached, their obstinate attitude and naivete dictated a deal- any deal. And Iran knew that. Although they are portrayed as living under onerous sanctions, they seem to be doing quite well in their nuclear development project so they really had nothing to lose and everything to gain. This deal- if approved- would negate years of American foreign policy. Instead of stopping a nuclear Iran, we have now basically placed a stamp of approval on their aspirations. These are a patient people and delaying the inevitability- as the deal does- is a no-loss situation for Iran because rest assured they will one day have a nuclear weapon.
As a recent Wall Street Journal article by Henry Kissinger and George Schultz notes, with nuclear negotiations the key is the verification process. To date, Iran has been unwilling to allow inspectors but will supposedly under the new deal. My best guess is that Iran has learned from both Hussein in Iraq, and from North Korea how to deal with these inspectors. If anything, they have increased secrecy in anticipation of these talks. Clinton tried to negotiate with North Korea regarding their nuclear program and Obama/Kerry obviously have not learned their lesson from that era. Although North Korea played along and the agreement delayed the inevitability, North Korea is no less a member of the nuclear club today. They only lack the means to deliver a nuclear weapon.
And the key to the agreement and only bargaining chip the United States had over Iran was sanctions. The Obama administration believes that by easing or lifting sanctions, this will somehow magically allow a moderate element within Iran to emerge. Of course, soon after taking office Obama and company (Clinton included) basically turned their backs on that emerging moderate element as they were being brutally repressed in the streets. In fact, he got the equation backwards- the Iranians should have shown moderation before negotiations began. And they could have actually increased sanctions to prove the point. In short, Obama is hoping the lifting of sanctions will change the behavior of Iran, and where have we heard that before?
All this deal does is eventually lift sanctions against Iran and delays the inevitability of a nuclear Iran for a few years. Obama will not be President then so dealing with that eventuality will fall to his successor while Barack and Michelle sip cocktails in Hawaii. And when you are dealing with nuclear weapons, the history is based on dealing with rational actors at the controls. Can Obama safely say the ruling mullahs in Tehran are rational, or does he actually believe they will be removed or marginalized by this mythical emerging moderate element?
These negotiations and this emerging deal have placed the Middle East and the world in a dire predicament because there may be no going back. This is likely to spur a Middle East arms race with a series of irrational actors. If you look at Iran’s behavior, they have basically encircled their main enemy in the region- Saudi Arabia. They, in turn, have now expressed an interest in obtaining or developing nuclear weapons as a deterrent to the Iranian threat. It also explains why they are attacking Iranian proxies in neighboring Yemen. Obama can promise them a deterrent nuclear umbrella, but who trusts him in the Middle East? When you turn your back on allies and negotiate with enemies, you have lost all trust and burned all bridges.
Also, these negotiations did not address Iranian hegemony in the region, their overt support of terrorism, human rights violations, or (most importantly) ICBM development. That should be a clue right there: why on earth does Iran need an ICBM?
We are told not to worry; if Iran violates the agreement, we will reimpose sanctions. It sounds easier than it is. It took decades to place the existing sanctions in place. Once the spigots are opened, it will be even more difficult this time around to close them again. There are too many actors looking out for their own interests with too many variables beyond the control of the United States. Does Obama believe he could get China and Russia on board again to reimpose sanctions?
In conclusion, Obama may have his perceived justification for that Nobel Peace Prize and he can flash it around and claim he made the Middle East safer when, in fact, he made the world more dangerous. Let’s pray this “hope they’ll change” foreign policy does not blow up in his face in a mushroom cloud somewhere in the region.