Iran nuclear agreement: Is a 'better deal' possible – and at what cost?
Critics say the shock of congressional rejection of the nuclear deal is a path to bring Iran back to the negotiating table. Secretary of State John Kerry calls that view 'a fantasy.'
Looming large over the calls for a return to negotiations are strong suspicions on the part of deal supporters that the “better deal” advocates really have no interest in a stronger deal at all, but instead want to thwart any US agreement with the Iranian government.
“We had a ‘better deal’ in Iraq after 1991 [following the Gulf War], there were no restrictions, inspectors could go where they wanted when they wanted, and that deal wasn’t good enough,” says Dr. Lewis, adding that “we still went to war. So really I don’t believe them when they say they just want a ‘better deal’ this time.”
Other doubters of the sincerity of the seekers of a “better deal” say it’s telling to note that the sponsor of the TV ad campaign demanding a better deal is a group called Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, which is backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel organization lobbying Congress hard for the deal’s defeat.
“There really is no ‘better deal’ for [such critics] in the sense of an agreement that leaves any nuclear program in the hands of the current Iranian government,” Lewis says. “Any deal is bad because it means living with the Islamic Republic.”
Yet many regional experts say that prospects for wooing the Europeans to join the US in pressing for a tougher deal, if Congress rejects the one now before it, are dim.
“European and Asian partners would feel frustrated and misled” in the wake of a US rejection of the deal, Jon Alterman, a Middle East expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the House Armed Services Committee this week. European allies would likely join countries like China and India in investing in Iran’s energy sector, he added.
“Broadly, the action would create distance between the US and the world and diminish distance between Iran and the world,” Dr. Alterman added, “after more than a decade when the reverse was the case.”