How Much of a Game Changer is the Iran Nuclear Deal? Flynt Leverett and Seyed Mohammad Marandi on RT’s CrossTalk

By | January 30, 2020

The University of Tehran’s Seyed Mohammad Marandi, on RT’s CrossTalk—click on the above video or see here and (YouTube) here—made an important point not widely recognized in American discussions of the Iran nuclear deal:  For the Islamic Republic, the main payoff from the nuclear deal was not, first and foremost, sanctions relief.  Rather,

“For Iran, what was important was to have a peaceful nuclear program.  So, the notion that Iran’s path towards a nuclear weapons is blocked is fine for Iranians because it’s not what they were doing in the first place.  The biggest gain for Iran here was the fact that its peaceful nuclear program, and the fuel cycle, was recognized

This vindicates Iran’s policy over the past decade.  After 2003-2005, when Iran basically gave up everything and the United States failed to come to any sort of reasonable agreement with Iran, Iran felt it had no option but to push forward heavily to advance its peaceful nuclear program.  And that’s what gave Iran the bargaining chips that was able to use, during the recent negotiations that ended a few days ago, to get what it wanted

Despite the difficulties and despite the hardship [Iranians] went through because of the sanctions, the biggest victory is that [Iran] basically forced the United States to the negotiating table.  And it has forced the United States to annul the UN Security Council resolutions—and none of those resolutions has ever been applied in Iran.  In other words, the demand was that Iran end its enrichment of uranium, and Iran never did so.”

While, as Mohammad points out, this is “a major shift in American foreign policy,” it is not clear how much of a strategic game-changer that shift will prove to be.  On this point, Flynt notes

“As someone who, along with my wife, has for years been arguing, inside the U.S. government and since we left the U.S. government, that the United States, for its own interests, needs to realign fundamentally its relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran, what happened in Vienna is obviously a very, very positive step.  But it is just a step.  And it begs the question of whether the United States can—as we outline in our book, Going to Tehran—really make the kind of commitment to a comprehensive revision of U.S. relations with Iran, somewhat analogous to the way that Richard Nixon recast America’s China policy in the early 1970s.

That’s the kind of real strategic revision that is critical to halt the accelerating deterioration in the U.S. position in the Middle East—and, on a less nationalistic basis, to put the Middle East itself on a more positive trajectory, with serious conflict resolution in various regional venues.  That’s the key challenge for the United States right now: can it really build on this opening that the nuclear agreement represents?  I think the nuclear agreement is fine, in and of itself, but the real strategic payoffs, the real benefits from this will only come if the United States can take these bigger steps as the nuclear agreement is implemented.”

The discussion is worth watching in its entirety.

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett