The event that so many in the political realm thought unimaginable has happened: a deal has been struck with Iran over its nuclear program. While that leading line sounds like a statement of finality, the reality is that there is still a long way to go on several fronts.
The deal, in its most basic terms, allows the nation of Iran to continue its nuclear program with the stipulation that all weapons development be halted and facilities be subject to international inspection. This seemed to be the hinge point of all the discussions, although many Iranian spokesmen, many powerful and influential political actors, deny that weapons development was ever a priority in their nuclear constructions. In turn, the U.S. has promised relief from economic sanctions that have been crippling the Iranian economy for quite some time.
Now, it is important to remember that the deal reached just hours past the deadline in the wee hours of the morning was the broad outlines of a plan to be hashed out in much greater detail by the end of June. The framework of these discussions has yet to be determined; however, a few key actors on each side of the debate have already indicated that there are several roadblocks already in place.
First and foremost is the opposition of the U.S. Senate, more specifically, Republican members of the body, who authored an open letter in opposition to the most recent talks. While their threat to the breakdown of these talks seems benign at the moment, their powers of influence in both houses could swing the debate – not to mention an upcoming Presidential season could change the balance of power in the White House leading to a swift change in policy. The chances on such a change seem slim however, as a recent poll concludes that 61% of the country is in favor of the deal.
Another line of threat to this deal is Israel. One of America’s key allies, Israel has been extremely outspoken over their distaste for the entire affair, and when the deal was announced, Prime Minister Netanyahu said the deal didn’t stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, is paved the road*. The repercussions for U.S. – Israeli relations here could, and most likely will, be substantial, and as of yet no clear reconciliatory path has been shown.
The last actor to have serious implications over the future of this deal is, rather obviously so, Iran. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has recently been vocal over his concerns concerning sanctions. He, as well as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, assert that “We will not sign any agreement unless all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the first day of the implementation of the deal”. This has been Iran’s sticking point. As I’ve noted in earlier posts, economic sanctions maintained by the U.S. have crippled and suppressed Iran’s economy in several ways. It is apparent, therefore, to see why the lifting of sanctions has been so key to Iran’s interest in these talks.
The question now becomes: how do the powers at be weigh all these costs and strike a balance? It no doubt will be hard, more like downright difficult (especially in America’s political atmosphere) but the rewards to all parties involved are immeasurable.
* I heard PM Netanyahu make this statement (in roughly these same words) the day the deal was announced on network news television