Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The entire Iran debate is now operating outside of the negotiating rooms as presumably all the relevant parties are composing their details as to how to implement the agreement reached at the beginning of April to take effect at the end of June. The real question, beyond all the public posturing and inflammatory headlines going on, is what do the various parties want and expect to evolve on June 30.
For the U.S.-Obama
For President Obama, Iran and Cuba were two of the issues which he highlighted already in his campaign as foreign policy matters which he expected to address during his Presidency. He will continue to pursue normalization of relations with Cuba as was evident within the last several months and especially with his action over past few weeks. Obama’s meeting with Raul Castro and pushing for Cuba’s removal from the list of States Sponsoring of terrorism confirm this direction.
Similarly with respect to Iran the President wants a deal so much he conceded to the Corker bill giving Congress potentially blocking power on any Iran Agreement. (While in truth this is a non-deal-breaker for the President, Secretary Kerry will need to sell it eventually to the Iranians who appear to be objecting to any changes.) Obama’s tenure is coming to end faster than he wishes and he desperately wants more wins for his record.
For the U.S.–Congress
Congress may not like the current deal and even the Corker Bill for being too weak and not restrictive enough on Iran. Members also know the Israelis are not satisfied but while Bibi can fight against the bill, at the moment it but appears he will lose; after June 30 the situation may well be different. What was fascinating to watch was that for one of the few times over the past years Republicans and Democrats quickly came together to unanimously pass the bill in committee. Bi-partisanship and the White House compromised; a very rare commodity these days in Washington. .
Within days of the preliminary agreement having been signed Russia proceeds with a long pending weapons sale to Iran of the S-300 anti-missile system. As a slap in the face of the sanctions regime, Russia did not wait for the ink to dry before initialing the sale. While a defensive system is not a direct threat to Israel, it is a potentially effective protective weapon against any attack on Iran’s facilities, should that become an option. Delivery is likely to be shortly.
When June 30 arrives it appears likely, as of today that the day will pass without a deal. Iran may want sanctions relief but they enjoy toying with the P5+1 even more. Rarely have the major world powers been so toyed with as they have been during this entire process. The only question will be whether the P5+1 will be able to admit defeat and walk away from the table.
The negotiations have been a fun time for Iran, and they will deal with continued economic consequences of sanctions. Meanwhile, Iran will parade its power and control throughout the Middle East. Whether and/or for how long the regime will be able to sustain itself is unclear, but the mullahs do not appear to be weakening in their forceful dictation of the rhythms in the region; in Syria, in Iraq, against ISIS, and now in Yemen.