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Is US deal over nuclear standoff with Iran possible?
David Ignatius in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post over possible nuclear deal with Iran writes, The likelihood that the Iran negotiations are reaching a make-or-break point was reinforced by President Obama on 09 February, 2015 when he told reporters: "I don't see a further extension being useful" if the Iranians don't agree by late March to a framework that shows the world "that they're not pursuing a nuclear weapon."

The seeming impasse raises an unpleasant but essential question: What should the US and Iran do if the talks fail? My answer would be that, at least initially, both sides would be wise to do nothing. It's like a labor negotiation where both parties conclude that it's in their interest to keep working by the old rules even after a contract has expired.

Mr. Ignatius was reporting from Munich, Germany, where he was attending the three day long Munich Security Conference. Nuclear negotiations with Iran and the ISIL's threat to the Middle East dominated the talks among the world leaders. The ranking Republican Senator and former Republican Presidential nominee John McCain said that Iran still had active nuclear weapon program and that it as a state was also sponsoring terrorism in the region and around.

His views matter as the Republicans control both Chambers of the US Congress and without Congress' support President Obama cannot lift all those sanctions that he may require in order to clinch a working deal with Iran. Iranian side was represented by its Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who said that sanctions were liability and that they must be lifted off.

To be practical a comprehensive deal with Iran is not possible for the Obama administration as the President would not have Republican support for his proposal at the Capitol Hill and many among the Democrats are also suspicious of Iranian intentions. I do not know what the position of Hillary Clinton, the most likely Democrat hopeful for Presidential race, would be but when she was leading the State Department she was trying her bit to promote peace with Iran over the nuclear issue.

As far as other prominent Democrat Presidential hopeful Joe Biden is concerned he is an establishment man and is a proponent of the peace plan with Iran. No prominent Republican Presidential hopeful, including Jeff Bush and Ted Cruz, would support much lifting off sanctions on Iran without full roll back of its nuclear weapon program with proper verification by the US inspectors and non-proliferation experts. Thus the opinion would be mostly divided along the party lines.

Right from beginning one thing was clear that President Obama does not have full authority to waive off sanctions on Iran fully or even those of his choice after the former nuclear standoff with the West is otherwise 'resolved'. Both the Chambers of the US Congress now have Republican majority and they are mostly very tough on Iran.

The fact is that President Obama cannot sell his vision to Iran: that nuclear weapons are bad for humanity, that he is committed towards the full elimination of nuclear weapons from earth, that the suspected proliferation would increase risk for Iran and others too by increasing both vertical and horizontal proliferation in the region and around. If the sanctions are not lifted then the possibility of Iran opting for nuclear aggression is quite high.

The hard-liners in Tehran may push their government hard for removing cap on Uranium enrichment and many may also outright wish for Iran making a bomb or two. Negotiations with Iran would then fail completely. Similarly, President Obama cannot give threat to Republicans of they incurring negative political cost in 2016 Presidential and Senatorial elections should they not cooperate with him over the matter.

The fact is that there is no negative cost for Republicans for them being tough on Iran and even if there were any they would ignore such an insignificant cost. The fact is that a vast majority of American public consider Iran to be a negative state. On the contrary if President Obama's peace initiative fails and somehow Iran takes a rough path ahead as a consequence then Democrats could loose Presidential elections in 2016.

The best thing for President Obama, even now, would be to seek the non-partisan opinion over the matter and probe the bottomlines of the Republicans and also have discussions with his relevant party Congresspersons. If they do not agree then sanctions cannot be fully lifted and I am sure that Iran is aware of this possibility. In my opinion if Iran does not already posses nuclear weapons, has halted its nuclear weapon program, frozen its Uranium enrichment capabilities, and is also showing encouraging signs on other non-proliferation concerns and the Pentagon's intelligence units and the CIA verify them then there is a strong case for lifting off some of the harsh and deadly sanctions.

One can ask that when this is N5+1 which is negotiating with Iran then why only the US matters? Others too matter but their opinion is secondary to that of the US, more so, because the UK, France, and Germany would side with the US over the issue. Moreover, the US has the biggest financial and military clout to put effective sanctions in place, something that all other states, notably the Russian Federation and China mostly lack.

To be truthful the Republican dominated US Congress would not agree to President Obama's request in full and thus the President should make his plans more realistic and scale down his expectations. But he should not deny continuation of talks with Iran should it wishes so. In this regard opinions of other N5+1 nations matter as well though President Obama would be wary of negative political cost of the failed negotiations on the outcome of the 2016 Presidential elections.

Republicans as such would not only demand freezing of Iran's nuclear program but its full roll-back with full verification. But then possibly this is not a realizable goal at this moment of time as Iran would not like to fully abandon its nuclear options fully to the satisfaction of the US. Let the US, Iran, and the rest of the concerned world lower down their expectations from the negotiations. But let me add that the West will never accept Iranian nuclear weapons as they can cause hyper-proliferation and hyper-aggression, endangering the stability of the Middle East and the North Africa.

Mr. Ignatius further writes in his opinion piece, 'What would a collapse of the talks mean for a Middle East that is already wildly unstable? Iranians seem convinced that, with the rise of the terrorist ISIL, the US needs Iran's help in Iraq. But the counterargument could also be made: Iran has chaos on its borders; a rupture in the talks would leave it fighting multiple enemies, with no reliable allies. Iran must also reckon with the dangerous prospect that Saudi Arabia, Egypt and perhaps Turkey would begin their own bomb-making programs, in a post-negotiation world. And if the talks should succeed?"

Mr. Ignatius asked Minister Zarif whether Iran might join Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Russian Federation and the US in seeking a framework for resolving the region's catastrophic sectarian disputes. Minister Zarif embraced the idea.

I wish that the world be that simple and that honest. Even though the likelihood of a successful negotiations is not high but even that would make many nations dissatisfied and also angered with the US. The Sunni states would not welcome the much bonhomie and rapprochement between the US and Iran and many would pray to Allah for this to never happen.

Moreover, Iran would not take the successful talks with humbleness rather than as a triumph of its policies and stands on the global issues and would not spare any mean at its disposal to increase Iranian hegemony in the Middle East, particularly in the Shiite-majority nations. Such would put it in direct conflict with minimally Gulf nations and that would not bode well for the security and stability of the region. More proxy wars could be fought and intensity and involvement in the existing ones could be increased as well.

Moreover, there is high likelihood of continuation of historical animosity among the nations. I think that sectarian situation would not improve much as of now even if the talks are successfully negotiated. But sure, peace with Iran should be tried, seriously and sincerely.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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