Writing in the FT on the historic nuclear agreement with Iran, Nicholas Burns, a leading analyst of US foreign policy in the Middle East, believes that an “imperfect deal will help an uneasy peace.”
Describing the negotiations as the “biggest foreign policy bet of Barack Obama’s presidency,” Nick argues that the deal will be “far from what was once envisaged at the State Department.” However, as “Iran now has the scientific and engineering knowledge needed to build a nuclear weapons…it is unrealistic to try to resurrect the demands of a decade ago.”
Despite this, Nick writes that “the Obama administration will have to fight to convince Congress that this is the right deal.” He notes that although the deal with Iran is a major accomplishment for the US and Europe – as it will help to keep an uneasy peace – this is merely the latest step in the “decades-long struggle for power with a wilful and often untrustworthy Iranian government.”
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The global commentariat is awash with talk of progress (or not) on America’s fiscal cliff, and what the economic ramifications of a failure to deal with it would be. However, what more often goes unnoticed is the very real impact this focus on the cliff could have on issues beyond economics. This is the argument of Ed Luce, the FT’s Washington Bureau Chief. In today’s column he says there is a danger that the cliff is distracting the Obama administration from taking swift action on pressing foreign policy issues, in particular Iran. For him, delay and miscalculation on the Iran risks ruining the rest of Obama’s second-term agenda.
If he fails to quickly develop a diplomatic strategy to halt Iran’s nuclear programme before it crosses the red line of weapons-grade plutonium, Mr Obama will likely find himself embroiled in the US’s third war with a Muslim country in a decade. Such a war would de-stabilise the region further and be very hard to win. But even if were succesful, it would only be likely to halt Iran’s programme temporarily, and it would almost certainly harden its resolve.
The fiscal cliff is not all Mr Obama and his aides should be worrying about, but at the moment it seems that that is the case.
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It was an absolute delight to meet US diplomat and foreign affairs adviser, Dennis Ross, when he was in town last week. Having advised the Obama, Clinton and George H. W. Bush administrations, with particular experience in the Middle East, he is someone worth listening to.
Ahead of the next round of nuclear negotiations with Iran, taking place in Moscow today, Dennis has written a piece in the New Republic setting out what the West must do to stop the process from stalling. He argues that Iran should be offered a civil nuclear power capability in order to move the process forward, as the current strategy of playing for time isn’t working.
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