The deadline for the much-vaunted nuclear deal between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran rapidly approaches. When the clock ticks over to midnight, June 30th, we will either experience peace and rainbows in the Middle East, or be immediately destroyed in all-consuming nuclear hellfire. That’s what the pundits would like you to think, at least. Commentators from both sides of the ideological spectrum, educated or otherwise, believe the nuclear deal will result in a series of extreme events with little room for middle ground.
Of course like all news stories, it wouldn’t gain any traction unless it was billed as either a panacea or pandemonium. But we here at the Havok Journal like to assume that our readership takes a more nuanced view towards world events, and regards the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world with a healthy dose of skepticism. You, the reader, understand the complexities of geo-political affairs and how unpredictable they are. You also understand that the demagogues and doomsayers often look incredibly foolish when viewed in hindsight.
With that being said, you are also very busy people and don’t have the time necessary to read long, dry analyses from RAND or WINEP. You need comprehensive and well-thought out analysis, but in an easily digestible format. You also want the blowhards who construct these traffic-generating articles to be accountable for their predictions of doom and gloom. That’s why I present to you, the critically-thinking reader, a list of my top nuclear deal predictions. I will also give you a rough deadline.
1) The deal will get done, but not by the deadline: June 30th: Whether it’s because of political theatrics on the American side, excessive Taarof, or an inability to reconcile the finer points of this deal, three months will simply not be long enough for both sides to come to a reasonable agreement. Khamenei has already weighed in on several issues, the most contentious being access to military sites by inspectors. And with supreme authority vested in the hands of the aging leader, this singular issue may prove to be the impasse that stalls this deal.
2) Gulf states will publicly support the deal, but privately undermine it: H + 60: Iran enjoys a shaky relationship with the other Gulf States. Relations have never been especially good between the Persian nation and its Arab neighbors, even before the revolution, but nearly forty years of antagonism have further driven a wedge between them. Arguably the main player in the region, Saudi Arabia has the most to lose from an empowered Iran. Already we’ve seen the Kingdom of Saud ramp up its rhetoric about the need for its own nuclear program, adding further tension. If other states have not been talking with nuclear nations about starting their own programs, they most certainly are now.
3) Iran will lift most of its travel sanctions: H + 90: This one is a bit of a no-brainer. Doubtless eager to capitalize on the throng of eager American tourists chomping at the bit to see Tehran, the regime will lift most (but not all) sanctions on travel. The most notable lift will probably be the itinerary and guide requirement for American travelers. Currently, Iran allows US citizens to travel into the country, but only through approved tour guides, or with carefully-scrutinized individual itineraries. Essentially, traveling to Iran is like signing out for libbo on Okinawa. Both of these requirements are likely to be lifted shortly after the deal is approved. Iran, which is currently experiencing an economic downturn, will welcome wealthy American tourists and their cash.
However, in order for the tourist industry to truly thrive, banking sanctions will need to be lifted and many of Iran’s assets will need to be un-frozen. Currently, US banks are not allowed to do business in Iran, which makes credit cards and other forms of electronic cash virtually useless. In all likelihood, the US will lift the sanction wholesale, or at the very least grant approval to banks on a case-by-case basis. Previously, the P5+1 group hinted that it wants to lift banking sanctions, albeit in phases as to ensure continued compliance.
If that’s the case, then it’s anyone’s guess when the banking ban will be lifted.One restriction that Iran is hesitant to lift is the ban on Israeli travelers. The two countries have been at each other’s throats for decades, and with Israel largely out of the picture on this nuclear deal, the likelihood of the ban being lifted is very low. Given a few more years and a change of leadership (either on the side of Israel or Iran), this could become a possibility.
4) Russia will resume shipment of S300 missiles: H+365: Iran has been awaiting shipment of Russia’s high tech S300 surface to air missiles since 2007. Also known as the SA-20, the missile system represents the latest in Russian anti-air technology. Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted the self-imposed embargo on the shipment of the weapons to Iran, but has postponed shipment due to other concerns. With the precarious position Russia currently occupies, the likelihood of the missiles being shipped hinges on the country’s relationship with Gulf countries, especially Israel. If relations deteriorate, as they appear to be doing, then Russia could very likely double down on its relationship with Iran by providing them with these high-tech missiles.
5) The next US President will support the deal: H + however many days until January 2017L Despite early misgivings, courtesy of freshman senator Tom Cotton (R – Arkansas), Congress has signaled that it ultimately wants the deal to go through, as long as it gets its say. This Congress is clearly looking towards the next election and what the presumptive frontrunners will want. Instead of running interference, they’ve chosen a strategy (albeit a begrudging one) of demanding transparency in exchange for support.
Even the strong conservative holdouts who famously co-signed a letter to the Majles have backed away from the opposition camp. Interestingly, the only Senator not to affirm the transparency resolution, Tom Cotton, was one of the strongest opponents of the initial deal. The resolution also gives new Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R – Kentucky) an opportunity to reign in some of the rhetoric by Tea Party upstarts like Cotton. Perhaps McConnell sees a need to tone down some of the language of his fellow party members leading into 2016.
Make no mistake, Iran will become an election issue in 2016. By adding additional stipulations to the negotiations, and by requiring that any potential deal must clear a vote before passage, Congress is letting the next President know that it is they who control the fate of this deal. A canny President, especially one fresh off of the campaign trail, is unlikely to signal an intent to kill the deal until at least their second term. By that time, analysts and pundits will have had more time to evaluate the efficacy of the plan, and any decision made by the President will have to be based on those findings. It simply won’t be enough to fulfill a campaign promise.