Overall, the landscape of Iran suggests few reasons for optimism: The Islamic Republic has negotiated an advantageous arms-control agreement, and the accord looks likely to survive opposition in the U.S. Congress. Tehran’s regime represses its citizens and has embarked on an expansion of its influence from the Persian Gulf to the banks of the Mediterranean.
On August 5, President Obama took to the podium at American University to justify his controversial nuclear pact with Iran. The location was chosen with seeming care, as over five decades earlier, John F. Kennedy delivered a key speech at the same Washington school calling for arms control agreements with another adversary, the Soviet Union.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a press conference after the P5+1 and Iran negotiations concluded on August 14, 2015. He discussed how the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action addresses Iran's pathways to building a nuclear weapon.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is unlikely to evolve into a post-revolutionary pragmatic state like China, writes CFR’s Ray Takeyh. As it is difficult to give up the theocratic orthodoxy of the regime, Iran will continue to resist the legitimacy of the international order.
In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Ray Takeyh argues that there is precedent for Congress turning down agreements until a better draft is negotiated as in the case of arms control deals between the United States and the Soviet Union. Given the role Congress plays in ensuring that the United States negotiates the best possible agreement, it should aim to do no less with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Philip Gordon argues that, while the Iran nuclear agreement is not a perfect deal, it is far better than any realistic alternative and Congress should support it.
In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, CFR President Richard N. Haass analyses the nuclear deal with Iran and suggests that any vote by Congress to approve the pact should be linked to legislation or a White House statement that makes clear what the United States would do if there were Iranian noncompliance, what would be intolerable in the way of Iran's long-term nuclear growth, and what the U.S. was prepared to do to counter Iranian threats to U.S. interests and friends in the region.
A major concern of the Iran nuclear deal is that it only imposes constraints for 10 years. After that, the “breakout time” needed for Iran to build a bomb may shrink again. President Obama should say that if Iran expands its program to the full extent allowed by the agreement, the United States will consider it a threat to our security and that of our allies. The president should also add that if the threat begins to grow again, Washington is prepared to renounce the agreement—reimposing sanctions, reviewing military options, and urging other states to do the same.
The Iran nuclear deal and subsequent UN Security Council resolution do little to bind the United States legally, though policymakers would face political pressure against reinstating sanctions, says CFR's John Bellinger.
"Critics of the Iran nuclear deal say that Congress should reject it. But Philip Gordon, writing in the Washington Post, shows that the alternatives to a negotiated agreement in North Korea, Iraq, and Iran so far have not turned out to be a "better deal."
At this point in time, given the current Iranian leadership, the state of Iranian public opinion, and Iranian economic conditions, relying on unilateral economic leverage to obtain a better deal is an illusion, argues Miles Kahler. More likely it would drive Iran further in the direction of North Korea—an unrestrained nuclear program and an economically isolated, unreformed regime.
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