To begin at the end, from the perspective of the U.S. and the Iranians this deal needed to reach fruition. They both had invested too much into the negotiating process to have walked away without an agreement; whether or not it is a good deal, however, remains to be seen. It also seems likely at this point—without having actually seen the details—that at the end of Congress’s consultative process, there will not be enough votes in Congress to block the deal.
The process itself is what was particularly striking and educative; not necessarily for the good. There was as much politics and economics involved here as there was nuclear strategy for the Iranians, the Saudis, the Israelis, as well as the P5+1. While it remains to be seen whether as a matter of global security this agreement will even hold, the other dimensions already are more ascertainable.
The Saudis had argued—quietly—against the deal. They may view the Iranians as brothers but remain in a major conflict and competition with them militarily, economically, and religiously. They do not want Iran to become nuclear and will undoubtedly acquire nukes themselves should they sense that Iran has become a nuclear power. They surely made this clear to the U.S. as well as to the Israelis, with whom, as has become known, they are in regular communication. The Saudi leaders are not a regime which operates in public or is visible on the public stage, but their views are no less critical to all the parties.
Netanyahu’s positions on these negotiations have been known to the U.S. and the world now for months. As was made abundantly clear in his immediate response to the agreement, Bibi will not hold Israel accountable to the agreement. Unfortunately for Israel in the course of the entire negotiating process Bibi has alienated the Obama Administration so much by his public, partisan, and personal objections—and even moreso his style–that while Israel was kept informed, the U.S. was not prepared to dignify Netanyahu’s critique; certainly not in public.
For the Obama Administration reaching an agreement was an ideological coup for those who believe that this was the route to retard and restrict the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. That view, unfortunately, reflects a negotiating naiveté in dealing with the Middle East endemic to this Administration. It is informed by the false belief that there is a cultural similarity in how negotiations are conducted in the West and in the region. In addition, given the current turbulence and violence abound throughout the Middle East, any fissionable material falling into the hands of non-state terrorist groups holds the potential for a major flare-up or even disaster.
Finally, both the Iranians and much of the West wanted the sanctions lifted. The Chinese and the Russians did as well. In fact the first signs that the deal was moving forward came from petroleum sources throughout the world and in Iran. The trade benefits for both sides if Iran returns as an economic trading partner are significant for worldwide markets. At the end of the day this may well have been the true motivating factor for Iran’s accepting this agreement.