Thankfully, at last, the leaders of Iran and the United States have exchanged civil, apparently well-intentioned words with one another. Many of us are pleased to see the possibility of rapprochement develop despite the persistently niggling awareness that an agitated Grinch lurks in the wings.
Netanyahu may succeed in undermining a deal between America and Iran. He’s deployed a lot of Lobby baltageya and he may still choose (insanely) to bomb the country. It’s alleged that he now wears the overlarge britches of the Leader of the Free World; there’s no reason to believe that he perceives the smallness of his actual stature.
However, the prospects for a deal may be better than many of us think. Obama is a second-term president. Legacy is undoubtedly on his mind – and to date, he hasn’t done very much that’s positive and memorable on foreign policy (ending two unwinnable wars is hardly memorable; who ‘ended’ the American war in Korea?). What remains is Drones – and that’s a very bloody legacy. Solving the Iranian issue – which should never have been an issue – could be to Obama as containing the USSR was to Eisenhower. Obama’s ego may resist Netanyahu’s attempts to dictate history.
In any event, the overall impact of a working relationship between the Americans and Iranians will be felt by every country in the region (except for maybe Egypt). Syria, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE will be impacted to a greater or lesser degree, although it is impossibly difficult to assess exactly how.
It may be the case that a negotiated outcome to the Syrian civil war becomes more likely with the resolution of the Iran-US relationship. A ceasefire (then peace) in Syria prevents the further destabilization of Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. A deal may also help induce the Iranian leadership into aiding with the stabilization of Iraq and Afghanistan where it has vital interests. Moreover, American assurances that an Iranian nuclear weapon will not develop may help to produce opportunities for energy diplomacy between Iran and the Gulf countries. Second-order effects on Pakistan and India may also be observed. “Peace” pressure on Israel could lead to Netanyahu’s ouster.
Things could go the other way too. The sectarian Gulf regimes may respond negatively to a deal. They may hold the view that anything that renews the Iranian ascendancy presents a threat, despite American assurances, which could lead to the further development of their own nuclear programs. Iran could refuse to broker a Russian-Syrian-American-Rebel (who are the rebels anyway? And can they overcome their fragmentation?) ceasefire in Syria as a consequence of sectarian considerations. It may also be the case that the Iranian influence in Iraq and Afghanistan is overstated or that the Iranians will seek to avoid issue linkages. And pressure on Netanyahu may push the Jewish-Israelis more deeply into apartheid, Dimona and Masada.
It’s really anyone’s guess at this point…