The Huffington Post ran a story the other day about the tentative and tenuous nature of the Iran negotiations and its political implications at home and abroad. The article put the prospects for a deal at 50/50. The main thrust of the arguments in the piece focused on the management of expectations, who would be blamed if the deal fell apart and the short term and long term sustainability and cohesion among the P5 +1 nations of China, Russia, France, United Kingdom, United States and Germany in staving off a nuclear crisis in the middle east.
As a concerned citizen who has followed this important news story for a while now, my instincts, gut feeling and interpretation of events leading up to this moment, have led me to the following conclusions.
1) Iran desperately wants a bomb. It’s hard to gauge the degrees and intensity of the different factions within Iran’s leadership that wants the bomb, but I think the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Shiite Muslim clerics and Revolutionary guard have coalesced around a long term end game in achieving this goal. For them, it would represent an elevated stature in the region, a rebuke to the outside world and its dictates, a culmination of organic determination and another tool in the messy world of diplomacy, trade and business. The Iranian leadership does not see this endeavor as a prelude to the annihilation of its country. Quite the contrary, they want to be bigger players in the world stage of globalization and see the possession of the bomb as a necessary component in their quest for respectability. I don’t think they are overly concerned with proliferation of its neighbors as the development of the bomb requires generational consistency, commitment of resources, savvy calculation and the tacit approval of world powers.
Now the diplomatic stalling tactics and conditions on conditions negotiations over the years has, and will continue to come at a cost to the Iranian people. As we all know, the sanctions have been debilitating, effective and hastened an isolation from the world community and the ire of its people. If these negotiations fall through or future agreements are broken, the level of regional, geopolitical and international uncertainty is elevated and uncomfortable to all. Threats of bombings, continued sanctions, the splintering of allies, defiance, hyperbole and never ending blame becomes the new narratives. It won't be pretty. But when it is all said and done, Iran will still have a nuclear bomb.
2) President Obama’s methodical, patient, diplomatic approach should be lauded for the deliberativeness in how he has dealt with this sensitive issue. Obama, in this instance, embraced the role that is inherent in the best of traditions of diplomacy. Helping the other side understand your strengths, an acknowledgment of your limitations and conveying a feeling of genuine desire for resolution. I think Obama achieved these objectives. I also think Obama knows that he can’t stop the eventual development of an Iranian bomb and only hopes to prolong the inevitable. His reticence to war is well documented and we know he is well versed in Iran/US history. And because of it, I don't believe President Obama when he says he would do everything possible to stop Iran from obtaining the bomb because that would mean the utilization of our own bomb. Not gonna happen. This type of response from the US would be too devastating to the Iranian people. He will not leave office with the blood of everyday Iranians on his hands. In the end, it seems that Obama's ultimate goal is to set a benign precedent for the next two Presidents of the United States in the hopes that he/she avoids a more aggressive response and understands that a nuclear Iran is not the death knell for unmanageable chaos in the region. The next President or two, would have to be strong, strategic and more diplomatic than the United States perpetually uneased ally in Israel and the hawkish, hawks in the US House and Senate.
3) In the short term, our President will have to deal with a Republican majority whose hatred for him, far exceeds their sworn obligation to country. We’ve seen a mixed bag of shameful, dangerous acts of sabotage toward Obama when it comes to foreign policy. The most egregious, when it comes to Iran, is the letter written by Republicans to Iran’s Supreme Leader in an attempt to embarrass and undercut a sitting President while in negotiations. Depths of disdain have been matched with deeds of the worst intent. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House majority leader John Boehner will continue to find ways to exploit the Iran issue and undermine the President. This will not change while Obama is in office and it will be up to news outlets, organizations, stations, journalists, reporters and columnists to either frame the Republican damage to the office of the Presidency in simplistic, two party, Tom & Jerry cartoonization of politics or collectively push back against the reprehensible in moving forward. Time will tell.