11/04/2014 09:44 am ET Updated Jan 02, 2015

Is There a Possibility of Reaching a Nuclear Deal with Iran?

As great powers and Iran prepare to negotiate an inclusive nuclear agreement, pundits and international security analysts anticipate both sides to make hard choices. As the P5+1 negotiating countries (The United States, France, Germany, China, Russia, and Britain) consider their options, I'll argue that Iran might have already put in place strategies in-case of a diplomatic failure.

Since his election to the Iranian presidency, Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, promised to end hostilities with the West in the hope of removing the old decade sanctions that have, economically, crippled his country. The issue in question is whether the West is open to extending the talks beyond their deadline should it fail to reach an agreement. Thus far, the negotiations have yielded little progress. With the deadline approaching, the West and Iran hope to reach a long-term deal by November 24th of this year. The question I ask is how realistic is it to reach an agreement by this deadline? The answer is slim to none. The West and Iran have engaged in previous rounds of negotiations and each time the parties met there was little to no progress. The exception, however, was on November 24, 2013 when P5+1 and Iran reached a tentative deal in which Iran agreed to freeze some of its nuclear program activities; as a result, the West, mainly the US, relaxed some of its sanctions on Iran mainly in the financial sector.

My analysis suggests that given the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East in addition to US tensions with Russia, a member of the P5+1 countries involved in the negotiations, I do not see how a comprehensive deal regarding Iran's nuclear program can be reached. The reason being is two folds: One, Iran understands the pivotal role it can play in supporting the US defeat ISIS; however, Iran will want something in return such as flexibility vis-à-vis its nuclear program. Two, Russia, can stonewall US efforts toward that end since the United States imposed sanctions on Russia following its annexation of Crimea. Despite what the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated in Paris, France recently following a meeting with US Secretary of state, John Kerry and Catherine Ashton, European Union High Representative, that there is hope; I got the sense that a comprise with Iran regarding its nuclear program might not be comprehensive.

Whatever the outcome might be, I believe the negotiations should be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect, consideration of each party's national interests, security concerns, and right to nuclear technology. I fear, however, that mistrust will continue to cloud the atmosphere, considering that the United States and Iran have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1979. Be that as it may, it makes sense if the West¬, and Israel --for that matter--, which threatened to use force to stop Iran from advancing its nuclear program, to change its tone. Issuing these sorts of statements, which is mainly for domestic consumption, does not help the cause. Needless to say, Israel has neither the logistical resources nor the military capabilities to conduct these sorts of airstrikes. Further, Iran possesses short, medium, and long range missiles, Shahab (which translate to meteor) that can reach Tel Aviv. One, I'll assume, comes to the conclusion why it would not be pragmatic of Israel -- or the West for that matter -- to engage militarily.

With this in mind, I must give the Obama administration credit for its political overture to negotiate with countries such as Iran that once was considered a pariah. I could not agree more with Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, when he stated, " With the Obama administration's emphasis on dealing with the inbox and eschewing talk about 'transformation' and 'democratization,' they strike me as having a more pragmatic, problem-solving foreign policy as opposed to an ideological one" (as cited in Kitfield, 2009, p. 1).

I will unequivocally state that the time frame of six months agreed upon between both P5+1 countries and Iran in previous round of negotiations will demonstrate how far this agreement can hold. The balance, however, is tilted in favor of Iran as far as achieving its geopolitical aspirations in the region that once were unattainable through a much radicalized foreign policy. Further, with the agreement with Iran, the United States is in a better place to engage the new Iranian leadership directly and see what it's made of as it judges what Iran does rather than what it says. Needless to say, the final decision regarding Iran's nuclear program rests with Ali Hosseini Khomeini, the spiritual supreme leader.

Criticism is already swirling around the beltway suggesting that time is in the essence as far as reaching a deal with Iran. Equally important, there are those within the Washington establishment who prefer otherwise; thus, maintaining the status quo in the Middle East. All things being equal, we cannot lose sight on how pivotal it is for American foreign policy establishment to resist the influence of foreign elements and special interest groups that tend to benefit from similar circumstances. When one acquires the much needed understanding of the rivalry between Sunnis (Saudi Arabia) and Shiite (Iran), he/she will understand Iran's nuclear standoff with the West in its broader context. For the moment, let's hope the upcoming negotiations on November 24th yield tangible outcome both parties can live with.


James Kitfield, "Obama ends the post 9/11 era," National Journal, April 11, 2009