Your average American who followed the debate over the Iran deal would have gotten the impression that Tehran is a military giant, with a Wehrmacht that even without nuclear weapons is capable of unleashing a blitzkrieg across the entire Middle East.
The hard facts are different. In a valuable recent article in Foreign Policy, Trita Parsi and Tyler Cullis point out:
* Iran spends $15 billion a year on its military.
* By contrast, Saudi Arabia spends $80 billion — five times as much — and the United Arab Emirates budgets another $23 billion.
Parsi and Cullis conclude,
Far from being a hegemonic power, able to domineer and subdue its regional rivals with impunity, Iran has a regional position that remains untenable, all while its regional rivals procure weapons systems that make themselves increasingly invulnerable.
And what about Israel? The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates its annual spending at $23.2 billion, over 50 per cent more than Iran.
Approving the Iran deal will not end the efforts to demonize Tehran and grossly exaggerate its military potential. In another vital piece in Foreign Policy, Stephen Walt warns that the attempts to undercut the arrangement are already starting. He explains,
. . . having secured a landmark agreement rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, a bunch of influential people are now demanding the United States take a variety of steps whose avowed purpose and likely effect will be to keep U.S.-Iranian relations trapped in a spiral of suspicion, demonization, and counterproductive rivalry.
And what motivates some of these hostile people? Professor Walt again:
For AIPAC and the rest of the hard-line wing of the Israel lobby, this agreement is a rare but telling defeat. Their consolation prize, however, is the opportunity to extort some more military aid for Israel and to do whatever they can to ensure Iran remains a pariah state. The last thing they want is a Middle East where the United States can talk readily to all the significant actors, and where the Iranian bogeyman is no longer there to distract people from the still-unresolved conflict between Israel and its Palestinian subjects.