Resolution of the nuclear deal with Iran will free up administration resources for other challenges from Russia and China
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The nuclear deal may have both positive and negative effects on America’s global standing and its competition with rival powers. A significant challenge for the United States, as a global super- power, is balancing priorities. One of the most important reflections of how an administration prioritizes can be measured in the hours that key issues receive from senior leadership. Over the past few years the Iranian nuclear challenge has tied up an inordinate amount of U.S. leadership’s attention, leaving other important issues such as Chinese provocations in the South China Sea or the overall rebalance to Asia to receive less atten- tion and fall lower on the priority list.47 This has meant less time for other issues as key leaders have spent an inordinate amount of time focused on the Iran question – most notably Secretary Kerry, who by most accounts may have spent more times in meetings with Foreign Minister Zarif than any other foreign counterpart in the last year.48 Kerry has also needed to spend a significant amount of time with other members of the P5+1 and Middle Eastern partners addressing this challenge. Additionally, the State Department’s number three official, Wendy Sherman, is almost solely dedicated to this issue.
The level of attention this issue has received has also led to a disproportionate number of inter- agency policy meetings, including deliberations by deputies and principals. As a result, other chal- lenges have had less time on the agenda, resulting in less rigorous policymaking processes and poorer policy outcomes. Allies in Asia have questioned the administration’s ongoing commitment to the rebalance, and allies in Europe wonder whether Washington is maintaining sufficient attention to Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior in its neighborhood. While enforcement and implemen- tation of the agreement will continue to require significant amounts of effort by senior political officials, hopefully in the aftermath of the agree- ment there is an opportunity to shift more time and resources to other issues.