After a decade of diplomatic frustration and another marathon round of talks, Tehran and the six world powers that have been seeking to resolve concerns over Iran’s nuclear activities signed an unprecedented preliminary agreement early Sunday. The interim nuclear deal sets the stage for a six-month sprint to conclude a more detailed pact that would roll back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure along with the wide-ranging economic penalties that have been levied in response to it. As the first deal on this issue that the United States has been a party to and the first formal commitment involving the two longstanding adversaries in decades, the terms of the agreement are already provoking an intense debate within Washington as well as among U.S. allies including Israel.
Brookings Institution scholars have jumped into the fray with media appearances, commentary and expert analysis of the deal, its implications for the region and for each of the parties, as well as forecasts for the diplomatic road ahead with Iran. And watch this space — over the course of the next several days, Iran At Saban will continue to highlight commentary from our colleagues throughout Brookings, who bring an array of regional and technical expertise to this important question.
- Saban Center Senior Fellow Michael Doran delves into what he sees as the downsides of the interim accord, arguing that the deal will erode American prestige and intensify violence in the Middle East in his post, “The Hidden Cost Of The Iranian Nuclear Deal.” Together with the American Enterprise Institute’s James K. Glassman, Doran also published a piece on the institution’s blog, AEIdeas, entitled “Iran nuclear deal: The mystery solved,” which contends that the nuclear deal is aimed at establishing “a strategic partnership with Iran because the [Obama] administration sees that country as the only island of stability in a sea of chaos and violence.”
- Robert Einhorn, a senior fellow in the Brookings Center for Twenty-First Century Security and Intelligence details the components of the deal that exceeded expectations in his post, “A Convincing First Step On Iran’s Nuclear Program.” Elsewhere, Einhorn argues that American and Israeli share a determination to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon in a Haaretz op-ed (follow the attached link on the paper’s Twitter feed to read the piece in full), “U.S., Israel spats blur simple truth: Neither wants Iran to have nukes.”
- F. Gregory Gause III, a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and professor of political science at University of Vermont, analyzes the strategic divergence that underlies the intensifying frictions between Saudi Arabia and the United States over Iran in an essay published in The New Yorker entitled “Why the Iran Deal Scares Saudi Arabia.”
- Shadi Hamid, who serves as Director of Research Brookings Doha Center and as a fellow in the Saban Center, makes the case for incorporating the wider array of regional issues, including Syria, into the discussions on a final agreement with Iran in his post, “To Win Arab Trust On Iran, Washington Should Broaden Scope Of Final Deal.” Shadi also considers the implications of the deal for Egypt in The New York Times, arguing that its military-led government and increasing financial dependence on the Gulf states predispose Cairo against any steps that would appear to empower Iran’s clerical government.
- Saban Center Senior Fellow Kenneth Pollack dubs the deal a valuable confidence-building measure but underscores that the diplomacy required to secure a lasting resolution to the nuclear impasse will be far more complex in his post, “A Good Step In The Right Direction, But A Long Way To Our Destination.” Ken and I, along with scholars from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, appeared on the CNN talk show Fareed Zakaria GPS on Sunday to discuss the deal. And Ken contends that the most significant aspect of the nuclear agreement was “its potential to overcome that mutual mistrust” in a Foreign Affairs piece entitled “Confidence Enrichment: The Nuclear Deal With Iran Was About Trust, Not Verification.”
- Saban Center Fellow Natan Sachs considers the factors motivating the tough criticism of the interim deal from Israeli leaders in his post, “On Balance, A Good Deal For Israel.”
- Brookings Doha Center Director Salman Shaikh writes that the deal has left regional players feeling bewildered and calls upon Washington not to disregard Iran’s destructive policies in Syria and elsewhere in his article entitled “On the nuclear deal, the hard work has only just begun” in The National (UAE).
- Brookings Visiting Fellow Jeremy Shapiro authors a detailed examination of the deal’s fallout for Saudi Arabia, observing that the Kingdom “will need U.S. protection even more and, despite its likely anger, would be foolish to upset the basic terms of the bargain” in a piece entitled “Iran and the U.S.-Saudi Bargain,” in Foreign Policy. And in an oped co-authored with Samuel Charap, Shapiro argues that Washington and Moscow should now pursue a cease-fire in Syria and bring both Tehran and Riyadh to the table before the planned January peace conference. The article, “After Iran deal, the next step is to end the Middle East proxy war in Syria” was published in The Guardian.
- I discuss the domestic implications of the interim bargain for Iran, where there appears to be an unprecedented consensus within the establishment surrounding the steps necessary to resolve the nuclear standoff, in my post, “Finally, A Deal Is Done: Anything Is Possible, But Nothing Is Inevitable.” Also see my latest in Foreign Affairs, entitled “Saved by the Deal: How Rouhani Won the Negotiations and Rescued His Regime,” which argues that “the nuclear deal is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for a failing regime; rather, Iran’s internal reset and the diplomatic breakthroughs that have followed will only exacerbate the pressure from below.”
- And please see the commentary of each of these scholars as well as Saban Center Director Tamara Cofman Wittes and others on the previous round of nuclear negotiations, which ended in frustration just over two weeks ago.
Israel and Iran were on a collision course even without the JCPOA following apart. Now that Iran is rebuilding its nuclear infrastructure, it's difficult to see how conflict can be avoided—Israel has made it clear that a nuclear Iran is not an option, and Iran is all but daring Israel to stop it.
This back and forth — an Iranian attack on Israeli posts on the Golan and a widespread Israeli response against numerous Iranian targets in Syria — was not a one-off flare-up or a case of hot heads prevailing. This is part of a structural conflict unfolding between Israel and Iran in Syria.
For all of us who care about preventing an Iranian nuclear bomb, what’s the best way to keep preventing that? [The JCPOA is] not perfect, but it’s something. These conventions are never based on the premise that all the parties are telling the truth, it’s about enforcement mechanisms. No arms control agreement is based in trust.