Iran Changes the Regional Dynamic

Israel and – to a lesser extent – Saudi Arabia continue to dictate much of U.S. foreign policy in the Mideast, especially animosity toward Iran. But the Iran nuclear deal may change the dynamic toward a more balanced strategy at least in the long term if not the short, as Gareth Porter explains.

By Gareth Porter

The achievement of “implementation day” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), when for both sides the central elements of the nuclear bargain went into operation on Saturday, means that it is going to be a fact of life in global and regional politics for many years. But will it have a profound impact on regional politics?

That is the argument both the Barack Obama administration and U.S. allies in the Middle East who have opposed it have made in the past. While Washington has said the agreement makes it more likely that Iran will eventually come to terms with its neighbors, Israel and Arab states have advanced precisely the opposite forecast, suggesting it will inevitably cause Iran to be far more aggressive and uncompromising.

An Iranian child holding a photo of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at one of his public appearances. (Iranian government photo)

An Iranian child holding a photo of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at one of his public appearances. (Iranian government photo)

However, especially in light of the dramatic deepening of the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the past year, it is now clear that focusing solely on whether it will reshape Iran’s policies is the wrong way to define the problem. Far more important is whether the agreement will create the impetus for realignment of U.S. policy in the region.

Both sides have used their arguments as devices to advance their political interests rather than offering serious political analysis. The Obama administration has argued that by closing off the pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon, the agreement opens up the possibility of domestic and foreign policy changes in Iran.

In perhaps the most far-fetched expression of that argument, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested in an interview with Reuters last August that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had been “counting on this nuclear thing to give them the umbrella of protection over their nefarious activities, and they…

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