Dreams from a Deal with Iran

August 20, 2015 Topic: Nuclear Proliferation Region: Iran Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Iran Nuclear Deal

Dreams from a Deal with Iran

Visions of good deals and bad.

And what if Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the straight shooter Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would ask us whether we have any confidence in the estimates of how many billions of dollars the deal will place at Iran’s disposal and would we not have to admit that we have even less confidence in estimates of how much of these billions Iran would use to fund its terrorist allies rather than invest in its ailing economy?

And what if their House counterparts were to have pressed us with similarly legitimate questions? What if the eminently sensible Susan Davis (D-CA) would ask us if we have any confidence in the estimates of how China, Russia and the Europeans would react if Congress were to over-ride the President’s veto and the U.S. was accused of sabotaging a deal that its own government had negotiated? And what if Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the level headed Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee would press us whether we would not be better off if Iran were to respond to Congressional disapproval by scaling up the level of its nuclear activities – which clearly serve no current or imminent peaceful purpose – thereby exposing its true intentions?

Agonizing all day and finally ending up thanking God that we were not the ones actually having to make the call, we finally hit the bed early that evening hoping to get a good night sleep at last. But the issue that has been haunting us all through the previous days and nights would not go away. When we finally managed to get some desperately needed rest another Iran-related dream descended upon us. This one seemed especially surreal, bordering on the incredulous. In the dream we saw President Obama actually acknowledging the weaknesses of the deal with Iran – not only extolling its virtues – and leading opposing members of Congress conceding its advantages. Both proceeded to work together to let the deal go through while offsetting its weaknesses by enacting explicit legislation that would set ground rules for its implementation. It would also lay out clear understandings on how the U.S. would tightly monitor not only Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA but also the general orientation of its nuclear program – has it truly transformed its program into a peace-oriented one? It would further spell out how the U.S. would react, unilaterally if necessary, were Iran to encroach on the deal or misuse the resources that the sanctions relief would channel its way to further foment mischief in the region.  

Wait, the dream went even further. We saw the president actually employing the congressional platform to reassure America’s allies in the Middle East, especially about U.S. responses to Iran's subversive activities, and, unbelievably, the latter even welcomed the hand extended to them.  Finally, it saw the three European partners amazingly casting aside for a moment their business interests in Iran and pledging to work with the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia to ensure that the Islamic Republic would actually faithfully implement its side of the deal, or face severe consequences if it contemplated otherwise.

This sweet journey gave us a remarkable night sleep. It was only when we woke up that the sobering reality caught up with us. This must have been sheer fantasy – another “Dream from the Deal with Iran”? Or was it?

Shai Feldman is the Director of Brandeis University’s Crown Center for Middle East Studies and a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Ariel E. Levite is a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.