Wednesday, July 15, 2015

US and Iran: wheel and deal

How the nuclear deal will embolden Iran, prettify America and alienate Israel.

By Marwan Bishara

In his first comment on the nuclear agreement, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it wasn't perfect for anyone but important for everyone.
And I shall add: it will affect everything in the Middle East and in Western dealings with the region.
The implementation of the deal and its ramifications are yet to be seen for the region. 
But while the devil is in the details (I leave it to those more qualified to speak to the centrifuges and resolutions), it is my view that moving forward, politics and strategy will trump all else.
'Historic' nuclear deal agreed with Iran
Momentous deal
Some will respond happily, others will react hysterically. But there is no denial about the deal's historic importance.
It will put an end to decades of hostility, years of posturing and months of speculation.
The agreement was made possible thanks to the commitment of the US President Barack Obama and his counterpart Hassan Rouhani (backed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) and the support of their respective societies.
Ultimately, the success of the agreement will depend on the goodwill of both parties to implement it in good faith. That is to say, Iran shall not use the deal to covertly expand its programme, and the US shall not exploit the deal to weaken Iran.
But make no mistake; the wheeling and dealing will continue for the foreseeable future. The last 23 months were only a taste of more to come.
Emboldened Iran
The importance of the nuclear agreement can only be appreciated and evaluated within the region's deteriorating strategic environment.
For starters, the deal will embolden Iran, prettify America, and alienate Israel.
It will phase out the Islamic Republic of Iran and phase in the ISIL group as the West's bogeyman.

The deal will also stir energy markets, sway regional security, and could potentially spark a new arms race.
And it allows the US to reshape its strategic alliances and alignments, and in the process, transform the strategic landscape in the Middle East.
All of this has put Iran's neighbours on edge.
Anxious neighbours
Most of Iran's neighbours are worried - albeit for different reasons - about what this all means in terms of Tehran's influence in the region.
Most of the Arabs are stung by Iran's support of the tyrannical Syrian regime and dismayed by its expanding interference and influence in Iraq. They worry the deal will embolden Iran to do more of the same in Yemen, Lebanon, the Gulf and other regions of the Middle East.
Ultimately, the nuclear deal will free the US policy from Israeli constraints and reposition America in a far more comfortable role that it has been since the beginning of the millennium.

They fear Iran will use the regional chaos and strategic void to further encroach on Arab sovereignties and crown itself a regional hegemon.
Israel, on the other hand is being, well, Israeli.
Although it is the sole nuclear power in the region with reportedly100-200 nuclear warheads and occupies its neighbours' lands and terrorises the Palestinians, Israel is chastising the Western powers for "capitulating" to Iran, even when much of the world reckons the deal will certainly and verifiably limit Tehran's nuclear programme.
But that should not diminish the fact that Israelis are truly worried. After decades of being told that Iran is an existential threat and the US an indispensable ally, they are suddenly watching from the sidelines as the US and Iran reach a historical agreement, despite their prime minister's unreserved objections.
Most worrying perhaps, is the way in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so rudely and utterly alienated the White House and much of the political establishment, notably in the Democratic Party.
American leadership
Obama's ability to decouple the US strategic mindset from Israel's, while providing it with unconditional support has been instrumental for reaching a deal with Tehran.
He has shown that the US is an indispensable superpower that can lead even if it cannot dictate results to its friends and foes. And that it can do so using a combination of foreign policy tools that include economic, military and diplomatic means.

Ultimately, the nuclear deal will free the US policy from Israeli constraints and reposition America in a far more comfortable role than it has been since the beginning of the millennium.
It will be able to manage the conflicting or conflated ambitions of the powers in the Middle East, just as any self-respecting empire would.
Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.

No comments: