The Iran debate will formally resume when the Congress returns after Labor Day and the Members will then have approximately ten days to vote on the deal. As the President golfs and relaxes on Martha’s Vineyard and as Congress, presumably is home listening to their voters (or also playing golf, etc.), it is clear to many Middle East observers that the entire region is exploding in a multiplicity of directions while some in the U.S. are fixated on the Iran deal. Regardless of the resolution of the debate in September, nothing is likely to change immediately; while the confrontations between what is left of the Assad Government in Syria supported by Iran, the opposition anti-Government rebel forces supported by Turkey, and the radical ISIS militants opposed by almost all are exploding at this very minute. The consequences of all this activity is also unpredictable, however, there are several things that are very clear already.
Iran is right in the middle of the entire fighting in Syria, Iraq, and on the Turkish border with funds, troops, and supplies. Its behavior provides clear evidence of the level of escalating engagement which will ensue in the region once Iran gets the sanctions relief resources from the nuclear deal. This will involve not only the state actors but Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria as well
Similarly, it is obvious that the Gulf States have become increasing anxious about the spread of radical Islamic forces—largely Shiite—who are driving the continuing turmoil in the region. For the Saudis to be cozying up to the Russians suggests the level of concern of the new King to the increasing dominance of radical forces. He sees what persists next door in Yemen and is beginning to see internal threats within his own regime. The escalating violence in the Kingdom has clearly shaken up the regime.
Turkey’s role in this entire developing ugliness continues to shift. Erdogan wanted American support fighting ISIS, therefore, reopened the Incirlik airbase now to manned and unmanned U.S. air power was one maneuver. It can expedite U.S. forces attacking the Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq; meanwhile, Erdogan can turn his forces loose against the PKK Kurdish forces who appear to have formed the most cohesive unit fighting in Syria and Iraq. For Erdogan, his underlying priority remains keeping the Kurds from legitimating—in the eyes of the West—the Kurdish peoples’ demand for independent statehood. (It is curious how the U.S. and its European allies comprehend the legitimacy of the demands of the Palestinians for statehood, but give mere lip-service to the Kurds who have a very clear, anti-radical, pro-West position.) The Kurds are being used, abused, and abandoned once again by the U.S. while Turkey itself talks about defeating the Islamic State, while attacking the Kurds and seeking Assad’s overthrow.
The regional instability that a deal or no-deal with Iran will create is real; but the immediate explosions that are developing will undoubtedly occupy far more attention long before Iran obtains nuclear weapons. The terrorist activity is toxic; the Islamic radicalization is real; and the human tragedy is growing daily.