Iranian Nuclear Program
President Obama and his supporters have done a terrific job of framing the debate over the Iran nuclear agreement as a choice between taking the deal or opting for war. They continually challenge critics to articulate an alternative to the deal, claiming that there isn’t one. This is a superb debating technique, and it has put critics on the defensive.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is still holding back from fully endorsing last week’s announced Iran deal: the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). His reticence is smart and to be expected. Khamenei must appear above the fray of Iran’s internal politics while in reality he is intimately involved in their orchestration.
Iranians celebrate on the streets following a nuclear deal with major powers, in Tehran July 14, 2015. (Reuters).
A nuclear agreement will inject a large cash windfall into Iran’s ailing economy.
As the world is focusing on the yet-again extended nuclear talks, Iranian leaders are expressing ever greater concerns about the perceived threats from ISIS and Saudi Arabia. How Tehran may respond, including deploying ground forces in Iraq, should give everyone pause.
Iran is perhaps facing its most ominous security environment since the Iran-Iraq War, yet Iranian leaders are being surprisingly open and frank about the severe challenges they face and their need to find better strategies in response.
I have noted previously the hypersensitivity to US military pressure that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei exhibited during a May 6 speech in Tehran. Perhaps just as important in that speech—but as yet not discussed—was something unspoken: "Everyone take note of this meaning. Our negotiators also, pay [close] attention!
Last week there was widespread optimism that a deal on Iran’s nuclear program was close. Now a less enthusiastic tone has emerged, especially from Western negotiators, and a key problem appears to be how much and how fast sanctions relief will come.
A likely partial agreement and extension of the nuclear talks comes as no surprise. Iran recognized the March 31 deadline for a political agreement did not really matter and behaved accordingly.