After a deal: Best analyses

With odds of a final nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 improving, Graham Allison and Gary Samore gather the best analyses on next steps if a deal is reached. Concerns about instability in the Middle East and congressional gridlock will loom especially large in the implementation of any final deal.

By Graham Allison and Gary Samore

Gen. David Petraeus, former CENTCOM commander and director of the CIA, recently put the odds of reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran at “maybe better than 50/50—which is not something we would have said even a few weeks ago, much less months ago.” Not all Iran watchers are so optimistic, but a number of analysts have begun to ask the question: what if? That is, what happens after a deal is reached? This is an important exercise, as even the best possible agreement will be buffeted by the strategic realities of potential regional instability, skeptical allies, and an obstructive Congress.

Best Analyses

Several recent commentaries have added value to the discourse on the challenge of managing a post-nuclear deal environment, including:

  • General Petraeus and Vance Serchuk, writing in the Washington Post, argue that “rather than marking the end of our long struggle with Iran, a successful nuclear deal could result in the United States…facing a better-resourced and, in some ways, more dangerous adversary.” Moreover, Petraeus and Serchuk assert that lifting sanctions against Iran “would strengthen Tehran’s ability to project malign influence in its near-abroad.” While difficult to predict Iran’s behavior, the authors urge policymakers to prepare for the “day after.” This requires sending clear signals to Tel Aviv and Riyadh that the U.S. will continue to stand with them in opposition to Iran, providing concrete support for anti-Assad forces in Syria, and imposing sanctions targeting Iran’s support for international terrorists.
    U.S. Soldier prepares missile defense equipment for live-fire exercise with Israel
    November 9, 2012 - A U.S. Soldier prepares equipment before a missile defense live-fire exercise with the Israeli military.
  • Dalia Dassa Kaye and Jeffrey Martini, in a report for the RAND Corporation, examine the same strategic issue from a different perspective. While Gen. Petraeus sees a thaw in U.S-Iranian relations as unlikely, Kaye and Martini write that an “ideal final outcome” for negotiations is a “final nuclear deal…that leads to Iran moderating its positions on other issues of U.S. concern.” They project that Israel and Saudi Arabia will act to quash any evolving détente between Washington and Tehran by highlighting areas of regional discord. To prevent either ally from preempting a fruitful dialogue between the U.S. and Iran, Kaye and Martini suggest that the Obama administration should provide security assurances, including cooperation on missile defense, to help Israel and Saudi Arabia adapt to a less confrontational U.S-Iran relationship.
  • In the National Interest, Jamal Abdi and Tyler Cullis offer a reminder that the first step in realizing the gains of any deal will be to implement the deal itself. They warn that implementation is a multi-party game and that Congress, the only player with the authority to fully lift American sanctions against Iran, will have an effective veto over the president’s ability to deliver long-term sanction relief. The first priority in implementation, therefore, will be to find a sanctions relief compromise that both passes congressional muster and meets Iran’s expectations. The question of how this might be done remains unclear.
  • Aaron Stein, in a post for Iran Matters, observes Turkey’s preparations for Iran’s return to the world economy after a final nuclear deal is concluded. Turkey, Stein explains, views Iran’s nuclear program as a threat but covets access to Iran’s energy resources and markets. As a result, it has become a loud opponent of international sanctions against Iran while quietly supporting NATO’s forward deployment of nuclear weapons at an air base in southern Turkey and investing in its own ballistic missile defenses and conventional deterrent. This three-pronged strategy, Stein argues, leaves Turkey well positioned to support a final deal while feeling secure in “its long-standing approach to Iran” if negotiations fail. 

Graham Allison is director of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. Gary Samore is executive director for research at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. From 2009-13, he was President Obama’s White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction.