What if a deal with Iran makes a Mideast war more likely, not less?

President Obama shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's King Salman, Riyadh, January 2015. The scene won't be repeated in Washington this week. (Reuters Photo/ Jim Bourg)

President Obama shakes hands with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Riyadh, January 2015. The scene won’t be repeated in Washington this week. (Reuters Photo/ Jim Bourg)

The left’s obeisance to anything President Obama negotiates in the way of a deal with Iran is built on one extremely shaky premise: that anything else amounts to beating the drums of war. This is an unserious assertion, not only because we have managed not to be at war with Iran all these years no deal has been in place, or because one obvious alternative to a deal or war is a reinstatement of the very economic sanctions that drove Iran to the negotiating table in the first place, but also because another alternative to a bad deal is, as Benjamin Netanyahu inconveniently made clear in his speech before Congress in March, a good deal.

But the pro-deal argument also overlooks one possibility that is more grave than all the others: that a deal would eventually make war more, rather than less, likely.

That’s one way to read the high-stakes geopolitics playing out before a U.S.-Gulf states summit this week. The Saudis took the unusual — and, in the hyper-nuanced world of diplomacy, blatant — step of allowing the White House to announce on Friday that King Salman would attend the summit, only to announce themselves over the weekend that he would not make the trip. The New York Times reports that “some Arab officials said his decision not to attend reflected a broader disappointment that Mr. Obama would not be offering much concrete security assistance at the meeting.” The alternate explanations in the story — that Saudi Arabia is waging an air campaign against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen (more on this in a moment), or that the king hasn’t traveled abroad very much — don’t hold up, as neither fact was suddenly discovered this weekend. Salman’s absence is amplified by the decisions of the leaders of Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates to skip the meeting as well.

The Washington Post reports the Gulf states are sending mixed signals about just how concrete any security assurances need to be. But what’s important here is their feeling the need to extract any kind of new assurances at all from the superpower that has more or less guaranteed their security since the days of FDR. After all, George H.W. Bush didn’t send half a million American soldiers to the Persian Gulf just to reverse Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, but also to keep Saddam’s army out of Saudi Arabia. What’s changed? More than anything else, what’s changed is the official U.S. position on Iran’s nuclear program, by way of the deal Obama seems hell-bent on striking.

While Obama and supporters of a potential deal talk it up as enhancing peace, Iran’s neighbors are girding for war. The Wall Street Journal reports arms purchases by Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations are up 50 percent in the past year, from French fighter jets to a U.S. system for defense against ballistic missiles. Those are not the actions of nations that believe peace is in the offing. Rather, they’re the actions of nations that are already in a kind of proxy war with Iran in Yemen — where Shiite rebels have overrun the capital and the U.S., which as recently as January was building ties with the rebels, has taken to warning Iran not to ship more arms to them — and believe Iran will be emboldened rather than chastened by a deal with Washington.

Given all this, the Gulf states can be forgiven for not thinking their long-time alliance with America means what it once did. And we don’t know what kind of decisions, and perhaps miscalculations, to expect from countries that feel threatened and are operating under a suddenly different set of security assumptions.

That is not to say we should offer blanket security guarantees to these countries. Not at all. Our domestic energy renaissance offers us a once-in-many-generations chance to rethink our interests in the Middle East and how those are best pursued. Certainly, nothing along the lines of a NATO-type deal should be on the table, especially when it is unclear whether we may be called upon to honor our deal with NATO in the Baltic states on Russia’s border (and perhaps in its sights).

But again, the point is that such assurances are being sought in the first place. This possible deal with Iran is making the region less settled, not more; more prone to saber-rattling and an arms race, not less. And we haven’t even discussed the calculations being made in Israel while these talks have gone on. This week’s summit snubs better set off some alarms within the Obama administration that peace may not be the most likely result of a putative peace deal with Iran.

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46 comments
HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

Those dismissing the deal already ( Remember Obama = Bad ) are conveniently forgetting how big a failure our policy towards a nuclear Iran is NOW


I would argue anything would be better


Iran went from zero centrifuges to 6,000 on Bush's watch. How effective was that strategery ?

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Right out of the chute (2009) Obama commits himself to promoting non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, then turns around, through his "negotiations" with Iran, and defeats his own efforts.

The man suffers from delusions of grandeur, and we, by extension, will suffer BIG TIME!

He's a global tadpole.

claude_boels
claude_boels

There is no real alternative !! here


IRAN is a nuclear thershold state and will remain it, no matter what US want !


If there is no deal,  iran will go nuclear, then  US may send missils, air droped bombs  destroy iranian navy, 

airfield .......kill a lot people BUT THE PRGRAM WILL BE RESUMED VERY SOON and iran will obtain nuclear weapons before 10 years !






Dusty2
Dusty2

Well, it does look like our liberal friends here are fine and dandy with Iran having an atomic bomb.  They can always blame any dire consequences on Bush so what's the problem! If the rest of the Middle East doesn't like it, TOUGH!!


Obama is just a nice American trying to save us from war by allowing more progress toward atomic weapons in The Middle East..  We don't need gasoline 'cause everybody is going to have an electric car.  Let's be best buddies and  shake hands.  Iran is just a nice country .  Obama, Kerry and Hillary have all said so!


See how easy this is. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Dusty2 

It would be amusing to hear Dusty answer some questions about the deal that is being negotiated with Iran. It is a safe bet that she knows nothing about it (other than that it is "a bad deal"), otherwise she would not write things like “it does look like our liberal friends here are fine and dandy with Iran having an atomic bomb.“ Dusty should be a very happy person, if it is true that ignorance is bliss.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

Maybe you missed the last few years, but Iran and Syria have been in a cold war for literally years. Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen have all been part of the cold war.

This cold war started because we attacked Iraq throwing off the balance of power. It has nothing to do with the peace treaty or our promises of security. I guess we could have stayed in Iraq forever, but no one wants that and were better off without it.

You clearly have no idea what is going on. Iranians want a western lifestyle. Take the nukes and give it to them. Then force them to stop the proxy cold war on good terms.

All of these conflicts are the same, Sunni versus Shia. Picking one side won't help. We just need to shove it back under the rug.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

If the history of the 20th century has taught us anything it is agreements can trigger far bigger conflicts than might have occurred otherwise and they cannot guarantee peace.

MarkVV
MarkVV

The notion that the deal would be “making the region less safe” is the invention of Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama’s opponents and there is no rational basis for it. Even if this deal would not, in the present form, prevent Iran from starting work again on a nuclear weapon after some number of years, it would provide time for a change in the Iranian political structure and some resolution of other situations in the Middle East. Rejection of the deal, on the other hand, would give Iran a free hand at speeding up a nuclear weapon development, and thus make the region less safe. The only alternative would we war, which appears to be the goal of some of those opposing the deal.

It is not at all certain that the leadership of Iran will accept the deal, and we also do not know the exact conditions at the end of negotiation. But there is little doubt that a rejection of the deal would be a victory of the most aggressive parts of the Iranian political leadership. It should also be noted that Iran has a complete right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and that the conditions of the deal already are obligations many other countries would reject out of hand.

claude_boels
claude_boels

@MarkVV


who said the only alternative is war?


A "containement" of a nuclear iran policy is far more better than war, BTW unless you r talking about full scall invasion and occupation, War( air and naval assault) will only set back a bit the program, NOT STOP IT

AjaxLessome
AjaxLessome

Tehran gets to keep its nuclear infrastructure largely in place, its stockpiles of enriched uranium within its borders, thousands of its centrifuges enriching more uranium, its research continuing on advanced centrifuges that could enrich uranium at a weapons-grade level, its once-secret and well-fortified uranium site in Fordo as well as its plutonium site in Arak still standing, its ballistic missiles that could potentially carry nuclear warheads unaffected, its terrorist-sponsoring activities unimpeded, and nuclear inspections that it will be able to limit. With all that, Iran will have great leeway to cheat its way to nuclear weaponry or, if it's patient enough, wait until a final deal expires - presumably in about 10 years - and move to nuclear weapons more openly. Meanwhile, sanctions relief for Iran under a final deal will generate huge new revenues with which Tehran can finance all of its dangerous activities around the globe. Iran remains the world's most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism, fueling Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other groups that have killed Americans, Europeans, Israelis and others. It has consistently refused to cooperate with nuclear inspectors who seek unimpeded access to its nuclear sites, or to come clean on the research it has conducted on the military applications of nuclear power. This deal is certainly not in America's best interests.

MHSmith
MHSmith

What if ? 


There is no what if Kyle, it already has. 

GMFA
GMFA

The invasion of Iraq made the region much more unstable. And remember most of the 9/11 actors came from Saudi Arabia. Time to attempt other things or we can stick to what really never worked to begin with.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Dismissing five permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, plus Germany, as just someone riding the bus in the negotiations with Iran is insulting. It is one thing to point out the US leadership (we know how the President would be attacked had he not shown the leadership), and quite another to disparage the contribution and importance of those other countries.

Mandingo
Mandingo

Iran NEEDS nuclear arms just like every other country does. It is the ONLY way they can or will get the United States to leave them alone and stop harassing them. We " jumped on "  Iraq which was one of the legs in Bush's infamous "axis of evil" quote  because they had no nukes. We would never invade North Korea, Russia, Pakistan , China or any other county that has the ability to defend themselves and  counter attack our invasions of their country with nukes.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

@Mandingo  Anybody know why the US has the right to tell other nations what they can do ?

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@Jefferson1776 @Mandingo

Well, just as one example, killing millions of Jews needed to be stopped.  If you accept that, then the question of where the threshold of when we do or don't "tell other nations what they can do" is up for debate.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

I was REALLY hoping you'd reach beyond the "the deal Obama seems hell-bent on striking" and get that this is a multi-national agreement. 


Nope.  I did not see that mentioned anywhere in your post. 


The US cannot unilaterally create a "good deal" all by itself and shake hands happily with Iran and put peace in the middle east. It's a much more complicated issue, and you trying to simplify it to "oh, we just get Netanyahu's good deal and everyone is happy" just distracts from the difficulty of actually getting to the negotiations. 


Multiple nations are in these negotiations. Before negotiations, Iran was on the path to getting nuclear weapons.  Obama actually joining negotiations strengthens the pact and leads to Iran NOT having nuclear weapons, only nuclear power and research.  Sure there are questions of security, but when is there not?  


Otherwise, should the US join every single inner-country squabble in the Middle East as World Policeman? That's what the argument sounds like when the call is for the US to stop Iran in Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Lebanon.  If the end-game is peace, then getting the US out of the picture will let them fight each other instead of seeing the US as an invading and occupying force.  We see how well that worked in Iraq. The US acted so poorly Iraq would hear nothing of a SOFA that would leave troops in country. 


Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator


@LogicalDude Actually, I think the distraction here is the talk about other countries. As I mentioned earlier, Washington and Tehran are driving the bus here. If one of the other countries in the negotiations ends up balking at a bad deal and keeps it from taking effect, good for them. But if Obama signs off on a bad deal, the fact that other countries were involved is no excuse.

In the meantime, Iran's neighbors are quite obviously worried about what's going on -- to the point they either want us to guarantee their security (a no-go, as I said in the post) or they will beef up their defenses to defend against what they (probably justifiably) fear will be an emboldened Iran. To simply say, "let them fight" a) makes a mockery of the idea this whole exercise is ultimately intended to preserve peace, and b) ignores the likelihood that a regional war stretching from Iran to Israel (and possibly beyond) is something we couldn't stay completely out of. We are not talking about an "inner-country squabble" here.

MarkVV
MarkVV

The obvious counterpart to
“What if a deal with Iran makes a Mideast war more likely, not less?”
is
“What if a no deal with Iran makes a Mideast war more likely?”

And no matter how often the deal opponents refuse to admit that “anything else amounts to beating the drums of war,” that is what is the case. Their usual other alternative is the inanity of “reinstatement of the very economic sanctions that drove Iran to the negotiating table,” which ignores the fact that under the economic sanctions Iran dramatically increased the number of centrifuges. But even more inane is the Netanyahu’s “alternative to a bad deal,“ which is supposed to be “a good deal.” Which he did not specify, but which is almost certain to be something unacceptable to Iran to the deal being negotiated.

One can only be amused by such “arguments” as that the reason for King Salman’s cancellation of the trip to the summit was not the war in Yemen because that was not suddenly discovered this weekend but a disappointment with what Mr. Obama might be offering – apparently something that WAS discovered this weekend.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

I don't think Iran wants a deal and never has.  They just want some time to develop their weapon and if they can take advantage of Obama's largess and incompetence in the meantime, by pretending to negotiate in good faith, well they aren't stupid.   I think this will go the way of the Obama/Kerry Palestinian/Israeli talks, a lotta talk that results in bumpkus.  I expect the Jun deadline to be as firm as an Obama red line, just a point where we can talk about how much longer the negotiation will continue.  Seems the next President is going to have to do a great deal of diplomacy in order to get the Sunni Arab states to trust us again.


I think the world is waiting for 2017 and the restoration of American influence, and more importantly American credibility, before making any major changes or reforms.

IReportYouWhine#1
IReportYouWhine#1

Our domestic energy renaissance offers us a once-in-many-generations chance to rethink our interests in the Middle East and how those are best pursued.


Why is gasoline 50 cents more a gallon all of sudden? What green nonsense did we impose on ourselves now?


The only reason iran hasn't directly attacked AmeRica yet is because they can't. They would be wiped out. But the bomb changes all that. And, correct me if I'm wrong, isn't obama basically trying to ensure iran gets the bomb? 


Maybe obama wants war? Didn't think about that, did ya?

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@IReportYouWhine#1  Why is gasoline 50 cents more a gallon all of sudden?

Because that is the price the market dictated. Don't tell me you've never noticed it goes up in the summer ?

And, correct me if I'm wrong, isn't obama basically trying to ensure iran gets the bomb?

You are incorrect. He is trying to make sure they don't get the bomb and move forward unfettered like they did under Bush's watch

Maybe obama wants war? Didn't think about that, did ya?


No. I didnt

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Give Iran the weapon, and dare them to use it.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

 anything President Obama negotiates in the way of a deal with Iran

Strange, I thought there were other countries negotiating this deal, not just the US.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@Visual_Cortex They leave that out of the narrative on purpose


For those already inclined to agree with them, Obama = bad is an easy sell


Getting deeper on the subject and mentioning that  RussiaChinaFranceUnited Kingdom and Germany are at the table too makes that a bit tougher to pull off. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar @Visual_Cortex Maybe I'll publish a version of this blog in French, Chinese, German, Russian and British (with all the necessary additional U's).

Or maybe we could acknowledge that Washington and Tehran are really the ones driving this bus, and that as a commentator in America I'm prone to writing about the American government, and not the French, Chinese, German, Russian and British governments.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar @Visual_Cortex Not to mention that it's the U.S. that has made these longstanding security arrangements with these countries, and it's the U.S. that is hosting the summit this week, and it's the U.S. from whom they want further security guarantees. 

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar @Visual_Cortex Or maybe we could acknowledge that Washington and Tehran are really the ones driving this bus


I don't doubt that is true. Doesn't change the point that others are left out of the reporting intentionally.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar @Visual_Cortex 

I think Kyle has just reached the limits of absurdity, when he suggests that he has not mentioned the other countries involved in the negotiation because he writes for an American newspaper. By that logic, perhaps we should delete from AJC everything dealing with what other countries are doing.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

No, @MarkVV, I'm afraid you're still exploring the limits of absurdity. Or, at least, of faulty logic.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MarkVV "Where is my faulty logic?"

Here: "By that logic, perhaps we should delete from AJC everything dealing with what other countries are doing."

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Kyle_Wingfield @MarkVV 

As usual, Kyle, you make accusations without any evidence. Where is my faulty logic? Writing about international negotiations, in which the most important countries in the world are involved, and not mentioning those countries, because you are not writing for people in those countries? That is YOUR LOGIC?


straker
straker

"is making the region less settled"


Kyle, looks like you have yet to learn this region has been unsettled for some time now and ANY actions by us seem to only make it worse. 

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

 The left’s obeisance to anything President Obama negotiates in the way of a deal with Iran is built on one extremely shaky premise: that anything else amounts to beating the drums of war.


No. Anything else amounts to what we were doing. Which clearly wasn't working. 


http://www.iranfactfile.org/2014/02/08/numbers/


Others point to what happened during the previous administration of President George W. Bush. Talks with Iran broke down after Bush lumped Tehran into the "axis of evil." After that collapse, the Islamic Republic went from zero installed centrifuges to some 6,000 by the end of Bush's tenure.


Yes....Its Dubya's fault.



n8diggidy
n8diggidy

Nothing in Iran's history since 1979 leads me to believe they are negotiating in good faith. Secondly, Too many have shown a seemingly unending acceptance of Saddam's repetitive violations of terms and this has to play into the Ayatollah's calculations. Given those facts it seems Iran is in the drivers seat while The Obama pursues his legacy.  

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Obama is a coward who cares only that Iran not explode a nuke prior to January 2017.  His preemptive surrenders and fecklessness the last six years have caused our allies to lose trust in us a partner for peace, and made the world a more dangerous place with even less respect for America than prior to his arrival.

Likewise
Likewise

Isn't this a deal to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon?  Not a deal to stop Iran from conventional warfare.  Two distinct views.  You cannot stop Iran's influence in the region anymore than you can stop the West's meddling in the Middle East.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Likewise The problem is if the deal emboldens Iran to meddle even more -- or if Iran's neighbors believe that's the case and do something rash. Neither is a good outcome.