“it is a game-changer for the Middle East”

An interesting piece argues that the Iran deal is transformational for the region. This counters an opposite piece that has argued that there will be little change in the region.

It opens “The president of the United States has argued that the Iran nuclear deal, which will almost certainly become the centerpiece of his foreign-policy legacy, is not transformational. In a confident and telling interview with the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, President Barack Obama asserted that, “We are not measuring this deal by whether it is changing the regime inside of Iran.” That statement — which came amid a list of assertions by the president of what the deal is not — is unsettling for several reasons, even for those of us who support the flawed but useful deal”.

He goes on to rightly argue “First, it is unsettling because it runs directly contrary to the argument that senior administration officials and supporters of the deal have been giving for some time now defining why the deal was important — that it would ultimately change Iran. While it is understandable that the administration would seek to cut back possible avenues of criticism of the deal, the pivot from building up to pruning perceptions of the impact of the deal, is not only intellectually dishonest and an obvious defensive gambit, it also poses other, greater problems”.

He contiunes noting that “One of those problems was highlighted by the very next effort at expectation management offered by Obama to Friedman in that interview: “We’re not measuring this deal by whether we are solving every problem that can be traced back to Iran, whether we are eliminating all their nefarious activities around the globe.” The president’s point, taken in conjunction with his previous one, is troubling because the greatest threat Iran has long posed to the region has not been its nuclear program, but rather its “nefarious activities” like sponsoring terrorism, seeking to impose its will, and aggressively expanding its influence throughout the Middle East — including via one of history’s most notoriously bloodthirsty regimes, the one in Syria”.

Yet there is some room for debate on this point. There is plenty of debate as to whether a nuclear armed Iran is dangerous to the United States. Some have argued that even if it acquired a nuclear weapon that it would not use it but the writer’s point shows the level to which the debate in the United States over Iran, and many other topics, is skewed by Israel.

He adds later that “That said, the biggest problem with Obama’s argument that the deal is not “transformational” is that the argument is wrong. Because whether the deal ultimately changes Iran or not, it is a game-changer for the Middle East and relations between and among not only the major players in that region, but also between and among them and the major powers of the world. In fact, it is already transforming those relations on many levels. One does not have to look too hard or too far for evidence of this. Today, America is fighting alongside Iranians in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq. Despite the fact that administration and U.S. military officials regularly repeat the mantra that the United States is not coordinating with them, that is just not true. We are. We are together fighting a common enemy. We are communicating through interlocutors like the Iraqi government. We are effectively accepting them in a role in which Iranian military leaders like Qassem Suleimani, who once directed Iranian-supported militias in battles against U.S. soldiers, are seen on the ground in Iraq as heroes of the fight against the Islamic State. We can say all we want to the contrary. The reality on the ground says differently. Furthermore, no honest observer can disregard how different America’s attitude toward the Iranian involvement against the Islamic State is now compared to what our position once was”.

He continues “transformation-related challenges await America’s allies in the Gulf, notably Saudi Arabia. They have been seen as invaluable because of their opposition to Iran. Indeed, this role has made the alliance with them essential even as they were seen as a very problematic partner due to the support that has come from within their borders for extremist groups, their repressive attitudes toward dissent and toward women, and their historic enmity for America’s ally, Israel. But now senior U.S. officials and senior international officials who supported this deal will have an incentive to cast Iran in a different light — to illustrate that their handiwork has been something more than “just a (short-term) nuclear deal.” Further, Iran — in seeking to take advantage of international sanctions relief, welcome foreign trade and tourism, and regain international standing — will take steps periodically, if not consistently, to shore up support for its new role. (I would not be a bit surprised if one or more of the Americans being held in Tehran were released prior to the Senate vote.) This does not have to produce a 180-degree shift in views to have a seriously negative impact on the Saudis, the Qataris, the Turks, and others. Incremental change could result in there being less tolerance by the United States and the international community for their various abuses. This could be a good thing. Or it could add uncertainty to already fragile alliances”.

He concludes “Make no mistake, this deal is just the latest in a series of seismic shocks that are remaking the modern Middle East. Some have been generational. Some have been technological. Some were manifested in the Arab Spring. Some have been driven by America’s growing energy independence or the rise of China as the global resource market of last resort. Some came with the end of the Cold War. Some came with the evolution of the extremist threat from al Qaeda, to the Islamic State, to whatever comes next. Some are unique to the massive changes taking place within individual countries — from Israel, to Syria, to Libya, to Yemen, to Iraq. But all are part of this being a transformational moment, and all will be impacted by this deal and its consequences, intended and otherwise. For the president, this administration, and our allies, therefore, it is essential that they don’t make the mistake of believing their own spin. This is a transformational deal in the midst of a transformational moment. The deal’s architects and its champions must recognize that it is up to them to determine what kind of transformation that entails. But so, too, must its opponents”.


One Response to ““it is a game-changer for the Middle East””

  1. Order and Tradition Says:

    […] the previous articles about the Middle East after the Iran deal another article from Foreign Affairs discusses the consequences […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: