Frederic C. Hof writes: One may see the nuclear agreement with Iran as the product of a faulty premise and still respect the industry of US Secretary of State John Kerry and his team in arriving at respectable terms consistent with that premise. One may see the prospect of a regionally aggressive Iran soon to be flush with cash as alarming and still — given the positions of Washington’s closest allies and the international community in general — counsel Congress to show solidarity with the commander-in-chief. What really matters at this point is that the United States and its partners pivot from their exclusive focus on closing the nuclear deal to address Iranian behavior that makes the battle against the so-called Islamic State (ISIL or ISIS) something between difficult and impossible.
The premise has been that Iran, left to its own devices, will field nuclear weapons, and that a nuclear-armed Iran would be exponentially more dangerous to its neighbors and to the region than it is now. Two years of track two discussions with senior, well-informed Iranian interlocutors have convinced me that this is not the case.
My Iranian interlocutors — hardliners and pragmatists alike — were gratified by Tehran’s accomplishments in Syria and elsewhere, in particular the preservation in Damascus of a regime completely in the service of Iran’s Lebanese militia: Hezbollah. They noted that Iran’s successful intervention in Syria had been accomplished without a nuclear arsenal. They pointed out that having such an arsenal would encourage their enemies to go nuclear. A thoroughly nuclearized region could complicate an aggressive Iranian policy of armed intervention by potentially turning every intervention into a nuclear crisis. [Continue reading…]