Further pressure on Iran will collapse any capacity Iranian moderates have to keep hardliners in check, just as it would in the U.S.
It’s true that one wing of the current Iranian regime, led by President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, will accept substantial limits on Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions. But Rouhani’s hardline opponents, who benefit politically and economically from the sanctions, fiercely oppose such a deal. Netanyahu thinks a more aggressive American posture, coupled with a demand for near-complete Iranian capitulation, will make Tehran accept terms that today not even Iranian doves accept. To grasp how absurd that it is, just reverse the lens. How would more aggressive Iranian behavior, coupled with a demand for near-complete American capitulation, affect the debate in Washington? Would it turn Tom Cotton into Noam Chomsky? Of course not. It would empower those Americans who most oppose a deal already.
It’s the same in Iran. If the United States scuttles Thursday’s deal, Ali Vaez, senior Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group told me, Rouhani and Zarif will “be totally discredited, marginalized. That would be the end of Rouhani’s attempt at talks to resolve this peacefully.” Rand Corporation Iran expert Alireza Nader added that, “If everything collapses and Rouhani has nothing to show for his efforts, the balance may go toward conservatives and ultra-conservatives and they can make it hard for him to go back to table.”
Opponents of the nuclear deal with Iran argue that the simple alternative is to reject the deal and increase sanctions pressure or the threat of military force to compel Iran to return to the negotiations table and agree to terms more favorable to the U.S. However, this approach fails to consider that for negotiations to succeed, they have to have a balance of incentives and compromises and the deal reached in Vienna reflected the best that both sides could bear.