Report: Opportunities & Risks for US after Iran Deal

June 15, 2015

A nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers has the potential to reduce instability in the Middle East, strengthen the global non-proliferation regime and increase U.S. prestige and influence. On the other hand, poor execution and policy choices could lead to a more aggressive Iran on the verge of nuclear weapons by 2025 and a region still plagued by sectarian violence and civil war, according to a new study by the Center for a New American Security. Ilan Goldenberg examines the opportunities and risks for the United States after an Iran deal. The following are key excerpts with a link to the full report.

U.S. objectives in the Middle East and globally will not change after an agreement. Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons will remain a top priority. The United States will continue to focus on the same core interests in the region: stability, counterterrorism, energy supply, and defense of regional partners. Strengthening the global nonproliferation regime and improving American global standing will also remain top priorities.
Opportunities and Risks
Key Questions
Will the agreement prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons?
• The agreement prevents an overt dash.
• The agreement deters a covert sneak-out.
• Enforcement breaks down and Iran obtains a nuclear weapon.
• Loopholes in the agreement allow
Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
Will Iran moderate or harden?
• Pragmatists use the agreement to wield greater influence.
• Hardliners reassert their influence after the agreement.
Will the agreement help stabilize the Middle East or exacerbate competition?
• The agreement facilitates greater cooperation between the United
States and Iran in Afghanistan and Iraq.
• The agreement leads to intensified competition in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
• Anxious Arab partners respond by going their own way.
• The agreement causes a deep permanent breach with Israel.
Will the agreement strengthen or weaken the non-proliferation regime?
• The agreement sets new norms for successfully deterring and dealing with problem states.
• The agreement weakens the standards of the non-proliferation regime.
• Regional states react by pursuing domestic enrichment programs.
Will the agreement provide more
strategic space for the United States
to focus on other challenges in Asia and Europe?
• The deal provides the United States more time, resources, and flexibility
to devote to key challenges in Asia and Europe;
• More flexibility in the bilateral relationship
with China; and
• Greater economic leverage with
• The agreement leads to increased tensions between the United States and Russia.
• China improves its position in the Middle East.
A nuclear agreement with Iran represents a historic opportunity for the United States, with the potential for tremendous regional, non-proliferation, and geopolitical benefits. But history will not judge the deal based on the piece of paper signed by Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif. The agreement will be the next step in a long and complex process. It is the behavior of the United States, Iran, and the international community over the next 10–15 years and the policy choices and strategy they execute that will determine whether the agreement succeeds in making the world a more secure and prosperous place. The challenges will be immense, but a concerted American strategy that takes advantage of the opportunities the agreement presents while guarding against the risks can go a long way to increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome.
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