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The Iran Nuclear Deal: A Definitive Guide

Posted on August 3, 2015 at 10:05 PM

United States, Iran Matters (Harvard's Belfer Center)

The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School has produced this briefing book on the Iran deal in the interest of contributing to informed Congres­sional review and public discourse on the agreement. First, we have provided a concise description of the complex agreement and the accompanying UN Security Council Resolution 2231, including areas that appear ambiguous. Second, we have tried to provide a balanced assessment of the agreement’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to its central objective to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

We have not tried to address larger political questions, such as the implications of the agreement on Iran’s behavior in the region and domestic politics, implications of the agreement on regional dynamics in the Middle East and the larger non-proliferation regime, or the relationship between the nuclear issue and other areas of dispute between the U.S. and Iran. Our focus is on the merits and drawbacks within the four cor­ners of the agreement itself. The team of experts who prepared this report includes Democrats, Republicans, independents, and internationals. Noting areas of disagreements among themselves, they ultimately agreed that this report provides an accurate description and balanced assessment of the agreement.


> Iran Edition: Hardliners Criticize Nuclear, Missile Limits

Shirin Lotfi describes reactions in the Iranian press to the nuclear deal signed with the P5+1. Specifically, Iranian hardliners have criticized the deal in editorial comments, critiquing it for sections relating to Iran's ballistic missile program, the process of sanctions relief, and the potential for the United States to impose further sanctions for nonnuclear activities.

> Brookings, Suzanne Maloney - Un-sanctioning Iran: What the nuclear deal means for the future of sanctions

Ultimately, however, the text of the final deal concluded last month suggests a more ambivalent bottom line. The disparity between the agreement’s sweeping sanctions relief and the more parsimonious scope of its constraints on Tehran’s nuclear activities underscores the limitations to the use of sanctions as leverage in the negotiations themselves. In this respect, the deal serves as a useful corrective to the recent infatuation with sanctions and the corresponding tendency to overestimate their efficacy in solving international problems without the use of military force. Sanctions may have been the silver bullet that brought Iran back to the negotiating table, but they proved too blunt an instrument to advance the most advantageous terms of a deal. [...]

However, the case of Iran also suggests the limitations of utilizing sanctions to craft a diplomatic resolution to a conflict. Others have noted the difficulty in calibrating sanctions' impact on the target economy; the Iran deal speaks to the even greater difficulty of calibrating an exit strategy to a crisis. In the end, despite assertions to the contrary throughout the 18-month process of hammering out a final deal, Western negotiators were unable to design a deal that relied upon gradual de-sanctioning of Iran as a means of providing incentives and reassurance for continuing Iranian compliance with the accord.

The lack of incrementalism in the final agreement underscores another enduring truth about the use of sanctions as a policy instrument: no matter how "smart" or targeted they may be, sanctions do not necessarily provide deft instruments for advancing complex solutions or aligning incentives with actions. Sanctions may be valuable bargaining chips, but they are almost unavoidably clumsy ones.

> Foreign Policy, John Hudson - Obama Administration Wins Gulf Support for Iran Deal

Gulf Arab countries offered their support for the United States’ nuclear deal with Iran on Monday, an important diplomatic victory for President Barack Obama’s administration as it seeks to sell Congress on the merits of the agreement.

The expression of support came out of a meeting in Qatar of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a collective of oil-rich states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain. The move further isolates Israel, America’s other Middle East ally, which has vocally opposed the Iran deal.

“This was the best option amongst other options in order to try to come up with a solution for the nuclear weapons of Iran through dialogue, and this came up as a result of the efforts exerted by the United States of America and its allies,” Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah said at a press conference. Qatar currently enjoys the chairmanship of the GCC.

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