As Iraq descends into chaos, the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran hangs over the Middle East. Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an expert on the inner workings of the Iranian regime, tells Right Turn that sanctions have put pressure on the mullahs: “The Iranian regime wants to achieve some kind of agreement since it is desperate for cash.” Meanwhile, “President Obama needs a foreign policy achievement he can market as a victory.” That, however, doesn’t bode well for disarming Iran. “I’m not sure it will be a good deal,” he says. “Even worse . . . I’m not sure Iran can deliver.”
Even if one doesn’t accept the view – as many conservatives do – that the entire negotiation is a charade intended to deceive the West, it is easy to see how Iran, after making a deal, would be compelled to break it. President Hassan Rouhani may be the face of moderation, but whatever influence he has is curtailed by the power residing with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The latter, in particular, has everything to gain from Iran’s emergence as a nuclear state. Alfoneh explains that when Pakistan became a nuclear state, Pakistan’s military, the keeper of the nuclear arsenal, came out the big winner. That experience isn’t lost on the IRG, which sacrificed greatly in the Iran-Iraq War and now expects its reward and expects the populace in general to endure hardship (i.e. sanctions) if need be.
So even in the best-case scenario – Rouhani wants a deal, and Khamenei allows it – whatever modest concessions Obama gets are not likely to hold up. Whenever the next popular uprising occurs, the regime will be once again at the mercy of the IRG to protect it and thereby obliged to indulge its aspirations of becoming the exalted guardians of the nuclear weapons treasure chest.
And that is the good-case scenario. Other analysts see Khamenei wedded to Iran’s status as a nuclear powerhouse, a symbol of Iran’s achievement over the West and the ultimate blackmail card for its regional aspirations. That means there will be no impetus for any deal approaching acceptable terms for the West.