Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Real Achievement of the Iran Nuclear Deal

Details of the accord matter less than the potential end of Washington's cold war with Tehran

Peter Beinart Apr 3 2015, 1:08 PM ET, The Atlantic

Right now, a thousand pundits and politicians are debating the details of Thursday’s framework nuclear deal with Iran. That’s fine. I think the details are far, far better than the alternative—which was a collapse of the diplomatic process, a collapse of international sanctions as Russia and China went back to business as usual with Tehran, and a collapse of the world’s ability to send inspectors into Iran. But ultimately, the details aren’t what matters. What matters is the potential end of America’s 36-year-long cold war with Iran.

For the United States, ending that cold war could bring three enormous benefits. First, it could reduce American dependence on Saudi Arabia. Before the fall of the shah in 1979, the United States had good relations with both Tehran and Riyadh, which meant America wasn’t overly reliant on either. Since the Islamic Revolution, however, Saudi Arabia has been America’s primary oil-producing ally in the Persian Gulf. After 9/11, when 19 hijackers—15 of them Saudis—destroyed the Twin Towers, many Americans realized the perils of so great a dependence on a country that was exporting so much pathology. One of the unstated goals of the Iraq War was to give the United States a large, stable, oil-producing ally as a hedge against the uncertain future of the House of Saud.

What George W. Bush failed to achieve militarily, Barack Obama may now be achieving diplomatically. In recent weeks, American hawks have cited Saudi anxiety about a potential Iran deal as reason to be wary of one. But a big part of the reason the Saudis are worried is because they know that as U.S.-Iranian relations improve, their influence over the United States will diminish. That doesn’t mean the U.S.-Saudi alliance will disintegrate. Even if it frays somewhat, the United States still needs Saudi oil and Saudi Arabia still needs American protection. But the United States may soon have a better relationship with both Tehran and Riyadh than either has with the other, which was exactly what Richard Nixon orchestrated in the three-way dynamic between Washington, Moscow, and Beijing in the 1970s. And today, as then, that increases America’s leverage over both countries.

(More here.)

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