America and Iran: Can the Nuclear Deal Lead to Rapprochement?

As the 1970s-era Soviet-American case shows, continued differences over regional security issues can halt progress toward rapprochement.

There may, then, be a greater possibility now for Iranian-American détente regarding nuclear weapons surviving than the one that the 1970s-era Soviet-American strategic arms accords resulted in. But if Iranian-American relations are going to proceed to a broader rapprochement, then Washington and Tehran will need to come to some sort of understanding over regional conflicts too. And this will not be easy since resolving regional conflict necessarily involves more actors (namely, the parties to the disputes) than nuclear negotiations (which, despite the P5 + 1 format, were largely between the United States and Iran).

Common concern about ISIS and Sunni jihadists, as noted earlier, provides the basis for Iranian-American cooperation with regard to Iraq, Afghanistan, and possibly Syria (especially if the Assad regime falls). American diplomacy will also need to make a concerted effort to bring about a lessening of hostilities between Iran on the one hand and both Israel as well as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arabs on the other.

The current attempt at an Iranian-American rapprochement need not take the failed path of the the 1970s-era Soviet-American one. But it will take concerted effort on the part of both Washington and Tehran to emulate the successful Sino-American rapprochement.

Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/U.S. State Department