Richard Haass dismisses negotiations in Vienna to salvage the nuclear deal, and then makes this assertion:
And even if they do [succeed], any agreement will not resolve Iran’s push for regional primacy – or for nuclear weapons.
If Iran were seeking “regional primacy,” it lacks the power projection and resources to achieve it. Then again, there is scant evidence that Iran is interested in “regional primacy.” Their security strategy is not that ambitious. Iranian “regional primacy” or hegemony is a scenario that Iran hawks throw around to frighten people into supporting their bankrupt policies. Haass is simply engaging in threat inflation as a way to belittle current diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear issue.
There is also no evidence that Iran is “pushing” for nuclear weapons. Iran may want to have that option available in the future, but everything we have seen for the last 18 years points to a government that wants a developed nuclear program that stops short of building nuclear weapons. That may not be the optimal outcome, but it is the best one that is realistically available to us. If the administration wants to resolve the nuclear issue so that Iran doesn’t feel compelled to build a deterrent of its own, it would do well to ignore what Haass is proposing in this article. There is an achievable compromise to be had, but Haass and the Iran hawks aren’t interested in taking it.
Some of Haass’ article is little more than the typical whining that the JCPOA does not restrict things that it was never intended to restrict and never could have restricted. He trots out the old chestnuts of “regional activities” and ballistic missiles, which the Iranian government isn’t going to discuss in any case, and then faults a revival of the JCPOA for not addressing things that are far beyond the capacity of any nonproliferation agreement. These are silly and irrelevant objections to continued diplomacy with Iran, but Iran hawks hope that if they throw enough mud against the wall that something will stick.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.