After Vienna

Despite the significant achievement in Vienna with the Iran agreement, the harder part comes now--the implementation of the agreement and the next steps in the evolution of Iran's relations with the US in particular and the West in general.

Ensuring that the Administration, Congress, and other interested parties are included in the process of implementation will be essential for its success. In order to keep these various parties informed, new positions should be developed which focus entirely on US-Iranian relations, concerning both nuclear and non-nuclear issues.

The President should appoint a point person to operate out of the White House to take charge of US-Iranian relations, including making sure the details of the agreement are fully implemented. That individual would need to work from the White House in order to be able to draw on various agencies and departments involved with the agreement and relations with Iran, and would need the full backing of the President and his national security team.

Responsibilities would include monitoring the details of the implementation of the agreement, which would involve working with the IAEA and other organizations and governments to ensure there is no slippage. The individual would also be responsible for preparing regular reports, classified and
unclassified, in order to make certain the entire process is transparent.

In addition, he or she would liaise with Congress, providing information and answering questions on the implementation process. Coordinating with the other P5+1 would also be part of the portfolio, as would communicating with Israel and other allies who have concerns about the agreement. This would also be the go-to office for the media and public, who will have questions about the implementation and related issues. Having an individual and office responsible for a coordinated response would be helpful to all concerned.

The point person should also be responsible for tracking other, non-nuclear dimensions of Iran's activities in the Middle East and beyond, as well as the evolution of US-Iranian relations in light of the agreement. The office of this individual could serve as an "Iran House" for Administration policy-makers, acting as a coordinating mechanism for all things relating to Iran.

Congress will certainly want to have its say about the agreement, making sure that all the details are implemented, and if they are not, expecting the response by the Administration to be clear and quick. As US-Iranian relations evolve, Congress will also want to be kept informed and to use its oversight responsibilities to monitor policy toward Iran.

In light of the focused interest in the agreement and Iran, bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate should consider establishing an Iran observer group that interacts with the Administration, and coordinates its oversight with respect to both the implementation of the agreement and the changing nature of US relations with Iran, as well as what that will mean to relations with other nations in the region.

The group could be modeled after the Senate Arms Control Observer Group, which interacted with US arms control negotiators during the Soviet era. It would work best if it were 50-50 Republicans and Democrats, which would help it to have a policy focus, rather than political one. The group would not undermine the work of committees. Instead, it could help inform and coordinate Congressional work.

This agreement is historic. It could be a game changer in the Middle East. Its supporters will face hurdles and many will be tempted to call it incomplete and ill-fated. As opposed to undermining the agreement, the response should be to address possible consequences--good and bad. By putting place offices responsible for informing interested parties and facilitating a productive dialogue, the agreement has a far better chance of producing the desired results.