The Iran Nuclear Agreement: Good or Bad?

The players in the Iran deal have their cards turned face up in this article, and their individual strategic objectives are mercilessly revealed.

Eric Kraus

OpEds Eric Kraus
Eric Kraus
INN:LK

The heads of great states, commentators, generals, lawyers, legislators, one-percenters and other such eminences, have unleashed a virtual tsunami of opinions regarding the merits of “The Iran Nuclear Deal” (IND). My mission herein is to illuminate the underlying strategic objectives of the major players in this game.

To date, the contributors to the tsunami have opened their arguments with: “Is the IND a good deal or a bad deal”? This is inevitably followed by a discussion of whether or not the major elements agreed to in the IND will suffice to guarantee that Iran will be precluded from joining the “nuclear club” in the foreseeable future. When the conclusion is yes, it will preclude, it is deemed a good deal, when it is no, it won’t preclude, it is deemed a bad deal. It is on this basis that the debate proceeds, i.e., will the IND preclude Iran from weaponizing the products of its nuclear infrastructure?

Business interests, terrorism considerations, Middle East regional hegemony are discussed, but not to the extent that the strategic objectives of the ”players” are clear. The cards on the table remain face down. Let us turn them face up and reveal the strategic objective (SO) of the players. In Yiddish this translates to: “OK, now let’s talk tachlis.”

Can we agree, a priori, that each player is committed only to its own interest and that if one supports another, it is always in self-interest? Such, arguably, is human nature; without doubt it is the nature of human societies, be they soccer teams, nation states or what have you. So, with many players in the game, it is obvious that there is no one good deal and no one bad deal to be drawn from the actual text of the agreement. Rather the
Can we agree, a priori, that each player is committed only to its own interest and that if one supports another, it is always in self-interest?
determination of whether a player sees the effect of the IND as good or bad, depends on their particular SO, and how the IND will affect it. And for the record, the IND dispute, on its face, is actually a tactical dispute, not a strategic dispute. The focus on it is cover for the underlying SO’s of the players. Now let us identify the strategic objectives of each player.

The United States

The SO is to incorporate Iran into the American System of global economic and political hegemony. Iran, its people and its wealth, will enrich the American System. Iran will become less obstreperous and more elegant as it partakes in the many blessings of membership in the American System with its abundance of subsidiary organizations; IMF, UN, WTO, etc. The personality of today’s Islamic Republic of Iran is remarkably reminiscent of that of the People’s Republic of China before Nixon opened the door. Iran’s threat to “destroy both the Big Satan (US) and the Little Satan (Israel) ” reminds us of China’s threat (pre -Nixon visit) to  “crush the skull of America with its hoe.” The successful integration of China into the American System is a strong precedent for believing that that a favorable outcome for the SO of the US is attainable, with negligible risk for the US. The IND is a GOOD DEAL for the US.

The EU and the Russian Federation

The SO is new markets, i.e. 70 million new customers with $150 billion of newly unfrozen dollars to shop with. The US will guarantee that Iran will behave, i.e. no direct military adventures across borders. With considerable upside and no apparent risk, the IND is a GOOD DEAL for the EU and RF.

Israel

The SO is the preservation of the status quo in the Middle East, specifically:

1.Continuation of the period, post 1973, of calm for Israel, interrupted only by skirmishes of a less than existential threat, during which time Israel has thrived economically and militarily.

2.The preservation of an existing deterrent package judged sufficient to thwart the ambition of any neighbor to attempt a serious military adventure against Israel.

3.A continuance of the American perception, and resulting policy, that Israel is America’s major asset in the Middle East both in terms of military cooperation and of the preservation of sufficient regional stability to satisfy the operational requirements of the American global system.

The tacit blessing by the US for Iran’s admission into the nuclear club has already diminished Israel’s deterrent package. It is a fait accompli that Iran will be a nuclear power soon. Israel's neighbors will adjust their perceptions accordingly. The question will arise as to whether or not Israel will remain the key US asset in the Middle East in terms of military cooperation, power projection and stability in the region. Iran, now a member of the US global system will compete for this position. The possibility of war between Israel and Iran, although not likely, will be more likely now than before. Should it happen it will be extraordinarily costly for Israeli blood and treasure and will curtail economic growth and prosperity to a meaningful extent. The cost to Israeli deterrence, the threat to regional stability and predictability, the end of Israeli regional hegemony, and a decline in the importance of the US- Israel partnership make the IND a VERY BAD DEAL for Israel.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Gulf States

The SO’s are the preservation of the status quo and the roll back of Shia gains in the region. Iran is an existential threat to the current regimes in theses countries. For the Arab Sunni Sates in the Middle East (and in North Africa as well), the apparent US support for the Muslim Brotherhood to emerge as the eventual dominant political power in Sunni territory adds considerably to the threat posed by the IND to current Sunni regimes. The Saudi military initiatives in Bahrain and in Yemen attest to the Saudi perception of the seriousness of the threat to the monarchy. With the US sponsorship of the IND, the new US-Iran relationship is now clear to these states and, as is the case with Israel, they see the handwriting on the wall. They no longer will hold the same special relationships within the US and its global system. There will be considerable anxiety among these nations during the extensive period of reassessment and realignment in the Middle East that has already begun. A VERY BAD DEAL for Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen.

Turkey

Turkey’s confused SO’s, which, during the Arab Spring, included a brief and awkward attempt to revive Ottoman regional ascendancy (if not hegemony)  will be negatively impacted by the IND, whatever Turkey’s SO’s may be. They are not easy to determine. However it’s  most likely that Iran will soon eclipse Turkey in military and economic power. It already exceeds Turkey in internal stability, clarity of SO’s, and ability to project power. A BAD DEAL for Turkey.

Iraq, Syria, Yemen

These three entities can no longer be classified as states, in the Westphalian sense, no longer having functional borders, and within which no single regime holds sway and projects coherent SO’s.

I’ts difficult to imagine that the players in the IND game are unaware of the above. But it’s also noteworthy that the one agreement to which they have come to is that their struggles to enable their respective SO’s shall be played out in the context of the IND. For the conscientious citizen following the IND turmoil and forming political judgments as to what party to support in the next election or revolution, I hope this analysis will shed some light on the crucial Strategic Objectives underlying the surface machinations.



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