Maseh Zarif is the deputy director and Iran research Team Lead for the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project. He works on national security issues related to the Middle East and South Asia, with a particular focus on Iran’s nuclear program and its regional activities. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review Online, and Foreign Policy, among others, and has appeared on CNN and Fox. Before joining AEI, he worked for several years in corporate finance as an analyst and a consultant.
American negotiators have attempted to secure a broader nuclear agreement with Iran building on the interim deal signed in November 2013. We now have nine months' worth of Iranian rhetoric and behavior as a basis for judging Tehran's intentions and perceptions. Iran's leaders have not budged in any meaningful way on the core issues.
The Obama administration has often responded to crises of confidence in its foreign policy by treating unease and skepticism among international allies and partners, and among critics at home, as a messaging problem. It has interpreted failure to secure buy-in or cooperation as a failure to communicate effectively, rather than as a potential sign of flawed substance.
The deal with Iran fails to verifiably eliminate Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. Or more succinctly, in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s words: “In Geneva agreement world powers surrendered to Iranian nation's will.”
The Geneva agreement represents an effort on the part of the Obama administration to try and manage the Iranian nuclear weapons program rather than insist and seek a verifiable dismantling and end to it.
Can an agreement between Iran and world powers live up to expectations? What are the elements of a deal that would protect American interests and those of its allies in the region? Can the White House afford to ease sanctions in exchange for concrete Iranian concessions? And has Iranian President Hassan Rouhani managed to change his regime’s strategic calculus?
Iran can produce one bomb’s worth of fissile material faster than it likely can deploy a functioning nuclear device. Tracking Iran’s uranium enrichment activities now addresses only Iran’s intentions and the size of its projected arsenal.