|Posted on August 15, 2015 at 9:40 PM|
United States, Iran Matters (Harvard's Belfer Center)
Original publication date: 8/15/2015
For someone who just lost one of his two jobs, Gary Samore was in remarkably good spirits when I called him at his office at Harvard University. Samore had just stepped down from his position as the president of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), an influential bipartisan group that opposes the Iran nuclear deal. The reason for the change was buried at the bottom of a very strange and very surprising UANI press release announcing his replacement: Samore now supports the nuclear deal.
Samore's journey on the Iran nuclear program is an interesting one. He has studied it for decades, worked on it as a senior arms control official in the Clinton and Obama administrations, and left government in 2013 to join Harvard and to preside over UANI. He long shared UANI's official position of skepticism toward the idea that an acceptable nuclear deal could be negotiated with Iran. That carried a lot of weight in the arms control community, where he is considered a leading authority and a technocrat. [...]
I called Samore to ask him about what had happened, as well as what he'd learned from the experience, both about the Iran nuclear deal and about the politics of it. He had some interesting and often blunt things to say. While he was careful not criticize UANI, he said he'd come out of the past year worried that "the American capacity to have a reasoned debate about national security issues has really been damaged by the polarization in Washington. ... There are still experts, but their voices are really muted by the politics." (8/13)
The Iran Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has completed a report on Iranian relations with the Arab World in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal. The recent nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 in Vienna, or the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), is an historic agreement which is consequential not only for international security and nuclear proliferation but for Iran and the broader Middle East as a whole. In particular, one of the key arenas that the agreement will impact is Iran-Arab world security relations and, at its center, the Iran-Saudi cold war. Spawning regional conflicts and proxy wars from Yemen to Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, the confrontation between these two regional powers serves as the geopolitical and security background upon which the nuclear deal was forged. How this cold war proceeds—whether or not it is effectively managed and resolved, or how it escalates—will largely determine the security dynamics and landscape of the Middle East for years to come.
Given the significant ramifications that these openings may herald for the future of Iran-Arab world ties, it is more important than ever to engage and analyze viewpoints from scholars and analysts based in the region on the future of Iran’s role in the Middle East and Arab security. In this light, this publication brings together a diverse set of voices from Arab world experts to comment on the implications of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 on Iran-Arab security relations. This chapter accordingly begins with a summary and brief analysis of Arab expert opinion in order to elucidate the broader trends and patterns of analytic thought on Iran and the Arab world. Thereafter, the chapter turns to an examination of the implications of the agreement on Iranian politics and the factors shaping the possibility of Iranian foreign policy moderation. It does so because no serious discussion on Iran-Arab security relations can ignore the Iranian decision-making process and domestic Iranian politics.
Key takeaway: Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian announced that Iran will hold talks on Syria and Yemen with the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Hamas Political Bureau Head Khaled Meshaal reportedly said that Hamas is interested in expanding cooperation with Saudi Arabia.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abdollahian claimed that Iran will hold talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) starting in September. Abdollahian explained that the talks will focus on reaching “a common understanding for...confronting crises present in the region.” Abdollahian also stated that Foreign Minister Zarif’s trip to Turkey was canceled because of the “absence of essential officials in Ankara” but emphasized that Iran and Turkey share a “strategic relationship.”
Hamas Political Bureau Head Khaled Meshaal said that Hamas intends to expand relations with Saudi Arabia, saying that “efforts are currently underway to open a new page in relations with this country.” Khaled Meshaal had previously traveled to Saudi Arabia in late July to meet with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and senior Saudi officials. The Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati later said that Meshaal’s visit did not create a rift between Iran and Hamas, claiming their relationship was “cordial.”
Guardian Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati addressed the domestic debate over Parliament’s constitutional right to review the nuclear deal. Jannati stated that he considers the deal a treaty and therefore Parliament must approve the agreement. Jannati, however, stopped short of explicitly demanding a parliamentary vote on the nuclear deal, saying that “we must wait for the views of the officials on this matter to see what they decide.”
Key takeaway: Expediency Discernment Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei stated, “The JCPOA is the beginning of our new era with America.”
At an academic ceremony in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province, Mohsen Rezaei highlighted the period from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s death in 1989 to [President George W.] “Bush’s time” as a “period of détente between Iran and America.” In contrast, the Expediency Discernment Council Secretary said that America increased sanctions and negative “slogans” against Iran in the period from President George W. Bush’s administration to President Barack Obama’s administration. Rezaei said President Obama “pulled America out of a foreign policy swamp,” and stressed that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, “is the beginning of a new era with America.”
Key takeaway: IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari stressed that domestic “deviation from the path of the [Islamic] Revolution” is “our main risk.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Damascus to discuss regional diplomacy in the wake of the nuclear deal.
IRGC Major General Jafari criticized the lack of attention paid to “cultural attacks” against the values of the Islamic Revolution. He stressed the need to address “cultural threats” in order to advance the Islamic evolution past the “third and fourth stages.”
Foreign Minister Zarif discussed efforts to end the Syrian civil war with President Assad and senior Syrian officials. Zarif described the talks as “constructive” and “good conversations on solving the Syrian crisis.” Before travelling to Syria, Zarif was in Lebanon, where he met with Lebanese Prime Minister Tamam Salaam, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, and Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.
The Armed Forces General Staff Chief Major General Hassan Firouzabadi announced that “missile drills will be conducted according to the schedule approved by the Supreme Leader.”
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