The egos that lie behind the Iran deal
The internet is wholly confused about the current deal on the table with Iran. It’s no wonder. You may expect a range of opinions on such a controversial topic, but the bizarre reality is that Obama, McCain and Ayatollah Khamenei have all described the raw content of the deal in very different terms. To get to the bottom of this, we need to look at the egos and attitudes of those involved.
Barrack Obama has made it his mission to reach a diplomatic solution to limit Iran’s nuclear programme and keep the country one year away from producing a nuclear weapon. America has led the negotiations alongside Russia, China, France, Germany, and Britain, and reached a preliminary agreement on April 2; the fine tuning and technical details are to be agreed by June 30. Although Obama claims that if the end deal is not in US interests, he would refrain from signing, in his eyes that could be tantamount to failure and increase the risk of war. So, he is trying to win over the Republicans, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and UAE who are concerned about the threat of an Iranian bomb to Middle East and global stability.
Obama’s insistence that sanctions will be phased out gradually only if Iran follows through with the various components of the deal, is to reassure those who are rightly skeptical about trusting the extremist Iranian regime. But the US President isn’t the only salesman in the equation.
Iran’s leadership is divided between radicals reformists with specific agendas.
The radicals, namely the Revolutionary Council led by the
and Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, have adopted a narrative whereby the West is determined to crush Iran, and a nuclear bomb will act as the best deterrent against western intervention. The reformists believe that working with the West to abolish sanctions is the best way to secure the country’s present prosperity and are handling the negotiations, but they are ranked lower than the Revolutionary Council. They are under pressure to reach a deal that will satisfy Khamenei and not be interpreted as appeasing the West. That’s why we have Iranian voices, including Khamenei himself, saying that they will not allow inspections and that the final deal must grant i mmediate relief from all sanctions.
Obama sees the discrepancy as a tactical issue: “There may be ways of structuring a final deal that satisfy their pride, their optics, their politics, but meet our core practical objectives.” His political rivals are far more wary and hardheaded.
Republican John McCain described the Supreme Leader’s comments as “a major setback” and 367 members of the U.S. Congress appealed to Obama that “verifiable constraints on Iran’s nuclear programme must last for decades.” While Obama is conscious of the changing nature of geopolitics and is judging the deal by the restrictions and checks that it will impose on Iran over the coming decade, many Republicans are judging the same deal by its longerterm implications. They worry that once the UN, EU and US lift sanctions, it will be harder to make the case for implementing them a second time round, and Iran could simply continue its nuclear programme at a later date.
Another crucial discrepancy arises from the inevitable and complicated technicalities of nuclear weapons: it is not clear exactly how many centrifuges and how much enrichment equates to a one-year break out time. Thus, those in favour and those opposed are drawing on different expert opinion to say how much warning time the same deal would give the West if Iran raced to build a bomb.
If Obama wants to win over skeptics, he is going to have to clarify the break-out time and clear up ambiguities about the exact rate of sanction relief in the final version of the deal. That’s not to say his critics will like it. But these are crucial details. The public deserves to forge an opinion based on the facts and not on the various politically twisted versions of events.