Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
There are two major issues which need to be addressed as one considers the prospect of an Iran nuclear deal–once again kicked down the road for another week beyond the current deadline. One of which is security and the other is political. At the end it will also require considering whether all the parties face the possibility that the deal even will be acceptable to all the negotiating parties?
As far as the U.S. is concerned, with respect to the national security question, it comes down to satisfying the concerns raised last week in a letter to President Obama by 18 former security experts—including five former Obama advisers. They postulated that the agreement ought to be rejected on its face unless the following critical conditions were met: monitoring and verifying all Iranian nuclear sites; no lifting of sanctions until Iran fully complies with agreed upon conditions; and limiting the number of advanced centrifuges that Iran can develop.
Should Iran not accept all these conditions the questions are: whether the U.S. will soften up its demand at the end; whether France (or Germany) will stand up to Iran if the U.S. waffles; whether pressure from European businesses for the Iranian markets and resources will trump doing the right thing; and whether even at the end Iran will so up the ante that the deal will collapse on its own?
In addition, to these security considerations, there are a set of more complex and subtle U.S. political calculations. As has been clear for a while, the President and John Kerry want this deal to work. The President wants this legacy almost more than he wanted bin-Laden dead. The Congress, however, has put the President in a very difficult situation were he to accept a deal which does not universally meet all the security considerations. Congress could well reject the deal; the President could then veto their rejection; and Congress could fail to over-ride his veto. While this would permit the deal to stand, it would create a political nightmare for the President.
If this critical international issue only gets resolved after a major inter-party and intra- party fight in Congress and with the President, it will immobilize U.S. foreign policy. Such a fight would be far more dangerous and volatile than what occurred over the recent White House fight with Congress over the Pacific Rim free trade bill.
Producing such a Pyrrhic victory for the President will affect his personal legacy, burden all Democrats who support the President, frustrate all Democrats seeking re-election or aspiring to be President in 2016, invite a possible military response by the Israelis, and disrupt multiple relationship between the U.S. and its Arab friends in the Middle East. The real irony of this type of a deal for President Obama would be that his lifetime goal to reduce nuclear proliferation would be shattered. In fact this type of deal is guaranteed to dramatically increase the likelihood of nuclear proliferation especially in the one part of the world where the potential misuse, mischief, and mishandling of nuclear weapons is significantly higher than it was even during the worst days of Cold War.