By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz
Self-serving law makers in Washington keep trying to make it impossible for President Obama-and his international partners- to reach a pragmatic agreement with Iran. Fortunately, the momentum for a finalized deal by the end of June looks too strong to reverse.
The consequences of these negotiations are huge. Failure to bring the agreement to fruition may lead to devastating multilateral war in the region.
In addition to the strong momentum and the sobering consequences of the deal, there is US consideration for international partnership. President Obama is committed to keep in mind the interests and opinions of his global partners dealing with Iran.
Back to a promising momentum for peace making: The framework established in early April provides reciprocal, realistic concessions. Iran would cut down the number of centrifuges as well as the production and level of refined nuclear material. Tehran would accept international, rigorous inspection and verification. The six powers would lift sanctions on Iran in stages, relief being contingent on a verifiable sequence of compliance. Iran would be kept a year short of the breakout threshold for production of an atomic weapon.
Assessing consequences: The collapse of negotiations might lead to a fourth US-led war in the Middle East within a span of a generation. Many in the US congress seem eager to tighten sanctions further, with the intent of forcing Tehran to liquidate its nuclear program. But the historical record reveals that slapping sanctions to coerce nations to comply is often counterproductive; unduly provoked, Iran might speed up its nuclear program. In response, Israel might strike Iran’s facilities. Iran would retaliate on unpredictable targets. The US could be dragged into a military confrontation with Iran.
Region already inflamed: The nuclear dispute is taking place in an already boiling region. State borders are unraveling. The Islamic State remains a grave threat to the entire Mideast. There are wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan. Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia feel especially vulnerable.
Spread of hegemony: The lead nations of the region are active on multiple military fronts: Israel in Gaza, the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights; Iran in Syria , Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen; Saudi Arabia in Yemen and Bahrain; Turkey in Syria and Kurdish regions and Egypt in Gaza, Libya and Yemen. Related to the above, there is heavy, largely unwelcome, US military presence in the region. Also related are terror groups continuing to invade sovereign states and establishing domains of governance in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan.
Security priority: To restore regional stability, the foremost priority is defeating ISIS and similar terror groups, and expediting political reforms. If Iran and Israel were to confront each other militarily, the entire region would erupt in a massive conflagration.
US not exclusive stakeholder: President Obama is taking immense political risk to save the nuclear deal from the clutches of hard line, pro-Israel US policy makers. He is aware that his negotiating partners with Iran could lift their own sanctions unilaterally, if they perceive the US congress to be unduly tough on Iran.
New role for Iran: A nuclear deal provides a potential for Iran to redefine its role in the region. Once relieved of sanctions, Iran could pressure President Assad to make a safe exit from power. Such a necessary move would pave the way for a diplomatic solution in Syria. Serious reversals for the Syrian regime on the military front in recent weeks have weakened Assad’s position. If Iran is liberated from sanctions soon, Damascus might find a face-saving formula to stop the bleeding in Syria. The window of diplomacy in Syria is shrinking fast.
A secure Iran could also cooperate in resolving the crises in Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan. Additionally, a more relaxed Tehran would eventually give the Iranian people new opportunities to seek political reform through the ballot box.
The deal with Iran is ripe. External military intervention should not be targeting Iran. Instead, the military effort should concentrate on ISIS and other terror groups. In a regional approach to reconciliation and state building, Iran should be a major player, along with Israel, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It is no longer possible to maintain the efficacy of sanctions if the US international partners feel abandoned at this conclusive moment by America. If Washington falters on the agreement Europe will walk away. The nuclear deal ought to survive political manipulation, contribute to the region’s stability and provide Iran with the opportunity to exercise a responsible and constructive regional role.
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