Triumphal tags of “comprehensive” and “historic” used by US and Iranian leaders to describe the Vienna treaty on Iran’s nuclear program have not impressed those cynical of the deal’s actual implementation. Here is why it may be too early to celebrate.
Firstly, the US
President Barack Obama will only have a 60-day window to convince
Congress, where many Republicans are hostile to the agreement,
and even Democrats are lukewarm about the proposal.
The document stipulates that Iran must reduce its stockpile of
low enriched uranium by 98 percent, shut down two-thirds of its
centrifuges, and open its sites to international observers for
the next 25 years. However, it leaves all the advanced nuclear
facilities in place – giving those critics who accuse Iran of
masterminding a nuclear weapon program, enough grounds to reject
“Instead of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in the
Middle East, this deal is likely to fuel a nuclear arms race
around the world,” John Boehner, House Speaker, said within
hours of Obama’s early-morning White House announcement.
— Speaker John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) July
“I am confident that this deal will meet the national
security needs of the United States and our allies, so I will
veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation
of this deal,” Obama warned his Capitol Hill critics.
But with the 2016 election in view, Republican presidential
nomination front runner Jeb Bush stressed he wouldn’t uphold this
part of Obama’s legacy.
“This isn’t diplomacy – it is appeasement,” said Bush in
a statement. “Shame on the Obama administration for agreeing
to a deal that empowers an evil Iranian regime to carry out its
threat to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ and bring ‘death to
The nuclear agreement with Iran is a dangerous, deeply flawed,
and short sighted deal. My full statement: http://t.co/sSftOAkyAM
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) July
While possibly appealing to the Republican heartlands he needs to
win the primaries, Bush promised that “as President” he
would keep “all options on the table, including military
force, to topple the terrorist Iranian regime.”
The favorite to win the Democratic nomination, Hilary Clinton,
sounded more positive, after reportedly telling fellow party
members that Tuesday’s agreement is “not perfect—no deal is
perfect—but it’s better than the alternatives.”
At the same time, she later stressed that “as president, I
would use every tool in our arsenal to compel rigorous Iranian
compliance,” and would “never allow” Iran to
acquire a nuclear weapon.
Conversely, while the front pages in the Iranian state-owned
media celebrated the agreement, reached after 20 months of talks,
analysts suspected that some of Iran’s shadow brokers remained
unimpressed, or fearful that a failure to develop nuclear weapons
opens them to US-backed “regime change.”
“That part of Iran’s leadership needs the United States as an
enemy. A nuclear deal—and, more importantly, the lifting of some
economic sanctions—would give President Hassan Rouhani a boost
and may buy him some freedom to pursue his domestic and
foreign-policy reforms. But Khamenei and his conservative allies
will still maintain a tight grip on Iran’s economy, military, and
security forces,” Alireza Nader, a senior international
policy analyst, told Newsweek.
Some believed that reaction in Tehran would hinge on whether
sanctions relief after ten years of embargos would bring tangible
gains to ordinary Iranians.
“Imagine if the economic benefits don’t come. Imagine if
sanctions are suspended, but Obama or his successor does not
follow through; then it will be a disaster,” Tehran
University academic Foad Ezadi told the Guardian.
Quite apart from containing several grey areas, despite White
House assurances that all ways to a nuclear bomb have been cut
off for Iran, the agreement is fragile.
The mechanism for punishing Iran for any violations is unusually
efficient for such a high-level treaty. If Tehran fails to comply
with any of the statutes of the agreement, a majority vote in a
panel of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United
States, the European Union and Iran, can “snap back” the
sanctions, and effectively suspend the treaty within 65 days.
With four allies in Western Europe (including the EU), Washington
is likely to have a majority bloc vote in any such decision.
While winning support for the deal at home might be tough, the
Obama government would also have to resolve the issue with its
major allies in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been fiercely
lobbying against the signing of any agreement with Iran, has
already called the deal a “historic mistake for the
Netanyahu has been playing the card of “Iranian bomb”
combined with that of the special US-Israeli relationship in an
attempt to persuade US lawmakers that any relief of sanctions on
Iran would potentially cause a threat to Israel.
For Washington, which has long referred to Tehran as a threat to
security in the region – and, potentially, a national security
threat – changing its tune on Iran with a new deal, which would
eventually lead to lifting of arms embargo, could be seen as an
Notably, Iran is still on the US State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism,”
along with the likes of Sudan and Syria.
The Israeli lobby in the US has already capitalized on this
issue, with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
stressing it is “deeply concerned” that the deal
“would fail to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon and
further entrench and empower the leading state sponsor of