Obama administration officials may argue that the nuclear deal would transform American-Iranian relations as they argue arms-control agreements did for American-Soviet relations during the Cold War. But the most significant cuts in Cold War weapons followed and did not precede political changes in Moscow, the likes of which we do not see today in Iran. The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, for example, came about only after the Soviet Union’s national-security policy reoriented under Mikhail Gorbachev to see the West as a potential partner. With daily ridicule, criticisms and outright hostility against the United States coming from mouths of senior-most Iranian officials from the supreme leader to Revolutionary Guard commanders, it is painfully obvious that Tehran has not reached its “Gorbachev” moment.
Iranian domestic policy shows that the regime has not profoundly changed. The Tehran regime ruthlessly suppressed the 2009 so-called “Green Movement.” It closely monitors Iranian access to the Internet and social media, and it dictates editorial lines. BBC News reports, for example, that the clerical regime has ordered Iranian media not to criticize the nuclear accord. The Iranian regime persecutes religious minorities such as Christians with harassments, detentions and arrests. It also detains and arrests Iranian-Americans on trumped-up charges of espionage, such as Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. And the clerics and their security forces crack down hard on any sign of domestic unrest, lest it gain momentum and grow into the scope of the unrest witnessed in 2009 or in the 2011 so-called “Arab spring.”
Iranian foreign policy, too, shows that the regime is not moderating. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and its Lebanese Hezbollah allies have been fighting a nasty war to keep the Assad regime in power in Damascus. Iranian manpower, military supplies, intelligence and financial aid—along with that coming from Russia—have been critical lifelines for the despicable Assad regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and made millions more refugees in neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Although Hezbollah body bags are returning home for burial in Lebanon, the militia remains committed to the bitter fight to preserve the Iran-Syria-Lebanon axis.