A nuclear deal could generate new opportunities for cooperation between the United States and Iran, according to a new policy brief by the Center for a New American Security. “Thirty-five years of animosity between the United States and Iran will not simply melt away,” the report says. But “a deal that truly resolves the nuclear issue can be a foundation for progress.” The following are excerpts from the full policy brief.
To be sure, any thawing of the relationship would face tremendous challenges. The two countries have not had formal relations since 1979. In the decades since, successive U.S. administrations have designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, and imposed sanctions based on a range of Iran’s activities apart from its nuclear proliferation. Both sides harbor long lists of grievances. Iran resents American support for the Shah and for Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War. The United States remembers the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and Iranian support for militants in Iraq. Resentments on both sides mean that powerful resistance in both political systems would oppose cooperation. Moreover, Israeli and Gulf partners, whose cooperation is vital for the achievement of other U.S. interests in the region, are likely to oppose any increase in U.S.-Iran cooperation.
Despite the challenges, however, there are a number of areas where Iranian interests align with those of the United States and its partners. Both have interests in maritime security and in the free flow of energy out of the Middle East. Both would prefer a stable Afghanistan with Taliban influence limited to the greatest extent possible. Both oppose the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and may be willing to work together against it.