November 25 2013
photo by U.S. Dept. of State
This commentary appeared in Foreign Policy on November 25, 2013.
The Geneva nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, plus Germany) is the first real positive development in the Iranian nuclear crisis in at least 10 years. The 2002 revelation of Iran's nuclear facilities spawned a decade of increased hostility between the United States and Iran, not to mention a heated rivalry between Tehran on one hand, and Tel Aviv and Riyadh on the other. In the past decade, Iran has not only faced the threat of war, but also the reality of sanctions that have caused untold misery among the Iranian population. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's (2005 to 2013) often vitriolic rhetoric and policies proved a stumbling block to a negotiated settlement of the nuclear crisis. But Hassan Rouhani's election as president this summer has provided a path forward.
The Geneva agreement is only a first step toward a comprehensive deal. But it is an important achievement. Iran's ability to move toward a nuclear weapons breakout capability has been halted in return for limited sanctions relief. The next six months will be crucial as Iran and the P5+1 negotiate a comprehensive deal; Israel, Saudi Arabia, and much of the U.S. Congress are highly skeptical of Iran's intentions, and the overall U.S. approach. And Iranian hardliners may stand ready for an opportunity to pounce on Rouhani. Nevertheless, the Geneva deal is a positive development for all parties, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, even if they do not recognize it as such.