The nuclear deal was meant to make Tehran less dysfunctional. It hasn't.
Iran can only think in terms of conflict and chaos
It is two years since the P5+1 powers and Iran concluded a deal on the Islamic republic’s nuclear weapons programme. At the time, the agreement was seen in the West as a narrow technical deal that opened the door to broader engagement with Tehran. It was, they argued, the first step on the path to Iran finding a functional place within the international community.
Many in the Gulf were not so convinced. There was concern that Iran was being rewarded for what had essentially been years of bad behaviour in regional affairs. There was concern that Tehran viewed the deal as something that temporarily put the brakes to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but still allowed the country to apply full throttle to its programme of chaos and conflict in the region. In short, many in the Gulf worried that Iran was being granted broad concessions without having to compromise at all.
The architects of the deal, including then US president Barack Obama, argued that the agreement was grounded in trust and verification. One wonders what those same politicians and diplomats think now. As The National reported, the White House said Tehran was complying with the terms of a deal to dismantle its nuclear programme, while also making it clear that Iran was breaching its spirit by continuing to destabilise the region. This was, in effect, a pronouncement of broken trust.
Hours later, the Trump administration imposed fresh sanctions on Iranians linked to the country’s aggressive and expansive ballistic missile programme. Last month, Iran fired six missiles into ISIL-controlled territory in Syria. As the US administration has rightly pointed out, the implications of such shows of force are indicative of Tehran’s intentions to dominate and dictate to the region.
A broad-ranging statement issued by the US said that Iran’s policies in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere “are serving to undercut whatever ‘positive contributions’ to peace and security” the nuclear deal was intended to create. In other words, absolute verification of “malign activities”.
Two years on, Iran continues to stir up conflict and create disharmony. History tells us that the agreement that many in the Gulf thought two years ago was a bad deal has proved to be just that. It has not made Iran more functional. Instead, Tehran has become increasingly emboldened. It has increased support for armed groups in the region, while receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in sanctions relief.
The state department’s parting words were that the “US will never allow the regime in Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon”. The current US administration understands the concerns that were raised when the deal was inked and appears determined to keep the Iranian regime in check. It knows that Iran is unable to pursue an honest path. It knows, with all certainty, that trust has been broken beyond repair.