Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Gelb: The Real Reason Obama Did The Iran Deal - The Daily Beast

Taking the long view.  - gwc

The Real Reason Obama Did The Iran Deal - The Daily Beast

by Leslie  H. Gelb (President Emeritus Council on Foreign Relations)

The U.S. allows Tehran to keep its nuclear program with the secret hope that America's foe will become a friend.

Both Iran and the United States essentially got what they wanted from the 159-page nuclear deal agreed Tuesday in Vienna.
The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s gains were more tangible than President Barack Obama’s. The Supreme Leader got significant sanctions relief for his ailing economy, the launch pad for Iran to become a more formidable Mideast power. Mr. Obama stretched Iran’s nuclear breakout time from a few months to over a year with strengthened inspection rights. But according to top administration officials, Mr. Obama has always been after something much bigger than capping Iran’s nuclear program, and he got it—the strategic opportunity to begin converting Iran from foe to “friend.”
Iranian negotiators understood well what’s been driving the U.S. president, and they have used the prospect of becoming “a friend” as their best bargaining card. For over a year now in small private conversations and strolls, they have been painting rosy pictures of Iranian-American cooperation.
The Iranian list of possibilities goes to most of Washington’s principal worries about the broad Middle East. They would step up their fighting alongside Iraqi troops to combat the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in central Iraq. And they would do much more in Syria to go after the headquarters and main forces that ISIS has there. They spoke of finding “solutions” to the civil war in Yemen between Sunnis and Iran-backed Shiites. They raised hopes of forging better relations with America’s “partners” in the Gulf. They pressed the idea of  renewing the cooperation they once had with the U.S. fighting the Taliban at the beginning of the Afghan war.
However, they said little or nothing about Lebanon, so as not to jeopardize the strong position there of their Hezbollah allies, or about their backing of Hamas in Gaza. And U.S. diplomats couldn’t get anything positive from them about Israel, the country that feels greatly threatened by Iran and fervently opposes any nuclear agreement with Tehran. But neither did Iranian diplomats close these doors.
If the past is prologue, few legislators will actually read the long and complex document. Instead they will rely on like-minded staffers and experts to reinforce their own prejudices. (And fortunately for them, the press won’t ask them hard questions to reveal their ignorance.) 
Here will be the main lines of opposition:
 First, the White House originally promised it would totally eliminate Iran’s nuclear program. Essentially true. But it was a dumb promise. There was no chance Iran would agree to this—none—then or now. And notice that virtually all those who wanted Iran to give up all nukes never made remotely similar demands when it came to North Korea’s nuclear program and mostly just bit their tongues as Pakistan crossed the nuclear threshold on its way to building almost 150 nuclear weapons today. It has to be asked, who is more likely to use nukes—North Korea, Pakistan, or Iran? Most experts pick Pakistan first, then North Korea.
Second, critics will argue that Iran continues its support of terrorists and efforts to overthrow Israel and the Gulf states. Also true. Of course, Iran continues to damage American interests, but these talks are about slowing its climb toward nuclear weapons, not instantly settling steamy Mideast problems.
Third, the critics say the U.S. could have had its way with the mullahs had Mr. Obama only strangled the Iranian economy with more sanctions. There are only a couple of problems with this argument. One is that no nation, including those far weaker economically than Iran, has ever capitulated after economic sanctions. Notice Russia, Cuba, and North Korea. And two, while Iran’s economy is hurting, almost all experts agree that it is nowhere near crumbling. Recent studies by conservative outlets such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and The Economist demonstrate just that.

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