Who Wants What from Iran Now? The Post-Nuclear Deal U.S. Policy Debate
by Kian Tajbakhsh – September 24, 2018
The Washington Quarterly
What is at stake is not merely disagreement over the best means of achieving a commonly agreed upon goal toward Iran, but the broader objective itself. Four primary objectives advanced by four identifiable constituencies will shape the U.S. debate over the coming months and years.
There are four primary objectives advanced by four identifiable constituencies.
There are four primary objectives advanced by four identifiable constituencies around negotiations with Iran: nuclear nonproliferation; regional stability in the Middle East; restoring U.S.-Iran bilateral relations as well as reintegration of Iran into the international community; and promoting (“Western”) human rights and democracy inside Iran. Each group is defined by the adoption of one of these four objectives as the overriding priority for any deal. Of course, these goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive; in fact, most arguments in favor of the JCPOA invoked a mixture of all four. Nonetheless, the four groups are distinguishable by espousing one of the four as the paramount goal. Needless to say, there are unavoidable trade-offs between these objectives, and only in an ideal world could all of them be pursued equally. Therefore, the more future U.S. policy is based on a clear understanding of the costs and benefits of basing the deal on one or another of the four objectives, or on some combination of them, the more effective and sustainable it will be over the long run.
The Options Ahead
The four objectives I have outlined—strengthening the global nuclear nonproliferation regime; enhancing Middle Eastern peace and stability through regional geopolitical architecture; restoring U.S.-Iran bilateral relations and reintegration of Iran into the international community; and promoting human rights and democracy inside Iran—without doubt will be, and indeed should be, in the basket of objectives that must be part of any future Iran policy. The groups rallying around these agendas matter because they will be the central actors in the months and even years ahead. And they provide a guide to the most likely next steps of policy coming out of Washington.
What’s Next for U.S. Iran Policy?
A realistic Iran policy will need to go beyond any one of the four goals in isolation. Over the long term, none of the four objectives or the groups promoting them will go away. A wise policy will try to embrace them all, even if tradeoffs and constant tension weighing competing priorities is unavoidable. These four goals will remain among the key ingredients of any national conversation about the future of U.S. policy on Iran’s nuclear energy related activities, and beyond that, the U.S. relationship with a persistently challenging country.