Opinion: Nuclear agreement but not at any cost | Opinion | DW | 01.04.2015
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Opinion: Nuclear agreement but not at any cost

The US seems to be doing everything in its power for successful nuclear negotiations with Iran. But there’s no gain if a deal has to be reached at any cost, warns DW’s Gero Schließ.

In the beginning, the West insisted that Iran should completely stop its uranium enrichment program and, furthermore, not be allowed to build long-range nuclear missiles.

These demands are no longer an issue.

In Lausanne, the five UN Security Council members and Germany are now concerned about preventing the proven ability to make a nuclear bomb in the next year. By defining military action or economic sanctions against Iran for any potential breach of agreements, the West is buying time to prevent the country from building a nuclear bomb.

But Iran is a tricky negotiating partner, as recently seen in the surprising 180-degree turn in the admitted shipping of its enriched uranium stockpile to Russia. All too often, the country has managed to dupe the West.

But it seems as if US President Barack Obama wants an agreement at any price. Suddenly, it is not imperative that Iran transports nuclear material to Russia. The US would even be satisfied with a 10-year term for the agreement, while France is pushing for 15 years.

And now it has been agreed to extend the self-imposed deadline of March 31 in order to reach a general political agreement, although it is already obvious that key points will be unquestionably left for the negotiations of the final treaty.

Obama struggling for a foreign policy success

Deutsche Welle Gero Schließ

DW's Gero Schliess

In the last two years of his term, President Obama is trying to shape the legacy of his foreign policy, but there's not much left to do in view of the flawed road he has paved.

One just has to be reminded that Obama was neither able to benefit from the "Arab Spring" nor was he able to make an impact on China.

His secretary of state's Middle East peace mission ended in disaster and the outcome of the "reset", i.e., the new beginning with Russian President Vladimir Putin, can be seen every day in Ukraine.

The nuclear deal with Iran is the last remaining prestige project in foreign policy that the president can make his own. A great deal is at stake: a nuclear-armed Iran could upset the global balance of power among the existing nuclear nations, which now includes Pakistan, India and Israel. While Iran is working on the nuclear bomb, Israel could feel empowered to carry out preventive military strikes. And Iran's arch-rival, Saudi Arabia, would do anything to become a nuclear power as well.

As a force in the region, Iran has already been brought into a dangerous position of dominance and has subsequently challenged the Sunni leadership in Saudi Arabia. Syria, Iraq, and now Yemen, are the places where Iran and the Saudis are competing for supremacy in the region.

Agreement with an intriguing perspective

One thing is certain: an agreement could potentially change the dynamics of power in the entire Middle East - for better - but also for worse.

The White House, however, seems to optimistically believe in a world where a humble Iran would only do good deeds, like: fight the Islamic State (IS) under US leadership, urge Syrian dictator Assad to resign, prevent Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist attacks against Israel, make the Shiite Houthi movement accept current leadership in Yemen, and generally avoid anything that would destabilize the region.

Of course, this would be desirable. Perhaps if Iran is once again embraced by the international community, it would play a truly constructive part in dangerous regional conflicts. This is an intriguing perspective that should not be met with indifference. But, for the time being, a watertight agreement must be made – with tough inspections and an accurate list of sanctions in the event that Iran is caught cheating.

If anything is to be truly achieved, then there should be no impression of wanting a deal at any price.

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