“It’s precisely because Iran is destabilizing in so many places that we don’t want them to get nuclear weapons,” Harf said. “If you imagine the kinds of influence they have today, they would have even more influence in the region if they were able to do that backed up by nuclear weapons.”
Hanging over the nuclear negotiations is a Middle East in disarray, where an extraordinary dymanic is unfolding. The U.S. and Iran are working both alongside and against each other in several conflicts.
The U.S. is on the opposite side of Iran in Yemen, on the same side in Iraq and against the Iranian-backed Assad regime in Syria.
“It’s really about what would make countries in the region safer,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Harf said preventing Iran from building a bomb will contain at least part of the threat they pose.
But many U.S. allies in the region distrust Iran and worry their interests are being sacrificed as the administration pushes for a potentially historic deal.
Saudi Arabia, in particular, feels immediately threatened by its longtime foe. Iranian-backed militias in neighboring Yemen, Iraq and Syria are only growing in strength.
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez thinks allies should be concerned — a deal with Iran would only limit, not scrap, its nuclear capability and could embolden it.
“What we will have done is bought time but not stopped Iran’s march towards nuclear weapons, and a future president and the world will face a potentially nuclear-armed Iran, and that is not in the national interests or security of the United States or our allies,” Menendez said.
There’s also the possibility that the talks in Switzerland could fail altogether. U.S. negotiators said if that happens President Obama will have to make a tough decision about whether he’s willing to confront Iran and force it to stop its nuclear program.