Beyond the Iran Deal

Senator Mikulski’s promise to support the Obama administration’s agreement on the Iranian nuclear program should move discussion away from partisan politics. The vote is done, or soon will be, and the agreement will stand.

In its wake are a daunting set of tasks.

One has to do with the implementation of the agreement itself, working through the verification requirements and the almost-certain disputes over what full compliance really means. Arms control is a slow and painstaking business, and this agreement will receive more than the usual scrutiny.

A second set of issues concerns Iran’s regional activities, which the agreement does not address. Heightened expectations that the Iranians will boost their support for Middle Eastern allies who seek to upset the status quo will make everyone more sensitive to Iranian actions. Promoting more positive Iranian regional behavior will be difficult, and curbing Iranian malfeasance is no easier than it has been.

There are also a large set of questions having to do with emerging global commercial ties with Iran. Congress will have hard choices to make in the coming months about what kinds of commercial activity with Iran it wants to discourage for what purpose and how effectively it can do it. Many businesses—European, Asian, and even American—see great promise in a reintegrated Iran. They have varying attitudes toward the seriousness of Iran’s regional activities and their relationship to the commercial ties they wish to create.

Most importantly, the U.S. government in all of its constituent parts will need to work closely with allied governments to ensure that this deal makes them more secure and not less. This will mean thinking anew about our security ties with the Gulf, finding a better way forward with Turkey, and perhaps most importantly, diffusing the acrimony that has arisen between Israel and the United States.

In the longer term, the wounds inflicted in the U.S.-Israeli relationship may leave the deepest scars. Whereas most skeptical allies were willing to acquiesce to the White House, the Israeli government confronted it head-on, and on personal terms. The Israeli government also helped polarize the U.S. debate by energetically mobilizing its supporters, even after it became extraordinarily likely that the White House would prevail. The U.S. Jewish community has been torn apart. There is much the governments do together, and much they must do together. It is unclear how much they will do together.

Jon B. Alterman is senior vice president, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.

Commentary is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

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Jon B. Alterman
Senior Vice President, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and Director, Middle East Program