Marc Lynch writes: The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement over Iran’s nuclear program announced on Tuesday is a genuinely historic accomplishment. While experts will closely parse the terms of the agreement in the coming days, early reports suggest that it is a well-crafted piece of diplomacy which meets the core needs of all sides and provides creative solutions to complex problems. Tuesday’s Iran deal is the most significant American diplomatic achievement in the Middle East since the Camp David accords, which secured an enduring peace between Egypt and Israel. The Obama administration will justifiably present the deal as delivering on its highest Middle East priority.
The successful conclusion of the difficult bargaining phase is only the beginning, of course. As with most international negotiations, the deal now sets the stage for an intensive, multi-level political battle over ratification and implementation. The deal will need to survive the ratification phase within the American and Iranian domestic political realms, and it will need to be processed within the U.S.-led Middle East regional order and survive the vocal objection of American allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. It will have to be implemented effectively and fairly, delivering a level of nuclear transparency and sanctions relief acceptable to the key players.
Total failure is of course still possible, given the wide range of potential spoilers and the complexity of the deal. It is easy to envision the positive relationship rapidly going sour over accusations of cheating, hostile rhetoric, military escalations in other theaters or political setbacks. But should the deal hold, what seems more likely to be at stake in the coming politics is the degree of transformation in regional order: Will the deal be the starting point for a fundamental regional realignment, or will it remain limited to the narrow nuclear realm? [Continue reading…]