If Congress Rejects the Iran Deal, It Would Be a Historic Blunder

UNITED STATES - JUNE 25: Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, holds his weekly on-camera news conference in the Capitol
UNITED STATES - JUNE 25: Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, holds his weekly on-camera news conference in the Capitol on Thursday, June 25, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The comprehensive nuclear agreement reached between Iran and six world powers represents a milestone achievement for the cause of global peace and security. Such a diplomatic resolution to a long-running dispute between rival powers has only rarely occurred in history. With this historic deal at hand, the dawn of a new age of relations between Iran and the United States is within sight.

It was not too long ago when tensions over the Iranian nuclear program had come to a head and the specter of a disastrous war loomed on the horizon. The situation had deteriorated to such an extent that Iran's nuclear activities had become perceived in the United States as a foremost security threat and had become a top-of-the-agenda international issue for other major powers. The International Atomic Energy Agency had also come to designate Iran as one of its top proliferation concerns. In Iran, the nuclear crisis had become the country's biggest national security challenge since the Iraqi invasion in 1980.

The morphing of the Iranian nuclear dispute into a zero-sum battle in which war seemed an inevitability, coupled with the presence of prudent leadership in Tehran and Washington that understood this reality, spurred the diplomatic approach that led to this deal. This roughly 100-page agreement, meticulously crafted by the indefatigable diplomats of Iran and the P5+1, not only averts another catastrophic war in the world's most volatile region, but sets new non-proliferation standards that can be applied throughout the world.

The dawn of a new age of relations between Iran and the United States is within sight.

By ensuring a fully transparent Iranian nuclear program through verifiable mechanisms, this agreement blocks all possible paths Iran could take to build a nuclear bomb. It will have Iran cease its production and separation of plutonium, enrich only at the low-levels necessary for nuclear energy and not stockpile nuclear fuel beyond what it needs for its peaceful domestic needs. These are all principles that can be enshrined into international nuclear non-proliferation law. In return, Iran has won recognition of its right to enrich uranium on its own soil and secured the removal of the draconian sanctions regime that had been imposed against it.

Measures of this agreement can also be regionalized to mitigate the risk of a nuclear arms race ever occurring in the Middle East. This deal should be viewed as a step towards establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region. Given the spread of instability in the region and the hypertension-laden rivalries that exist between regional powers, the establishment of a NWFZ is imperative, and this nuclear agreement sets a positive precedent in this regard.

Finally, and most importantly, this agreement sets the stage for broader cooperation between Iran and the United States. Peace between Iran, a regional power, and the United States, a global superpower, would allow the two states to cooperate against their common adversaries, namely the jihadist groups plaguing the region such as the Islamic State, al Qaeda and the Taliban. Iran is an instrumental force leading the fight on the ground against these groups in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, and can be the United States' most effective partner in combatting them.

Iran can be the United States' most effective partner in combatting the jihadist groups plaguing the region such as ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Of course, there are numerous obstacles to be overcome before such a relationship can be realized. Iran and the United States are on opposite sides of a chaotic civil war in Syria, Iranian allies like Hezbollah are considered terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department, and American allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel are staunchly opposed to any U.S.-Iran détente. However, the fact is that as the Middle East descends into further anarchy and disorder, threatening to draw the United States into another costly and entangling conflict, Iran is in many ways the lynchpin to achieving a stabilizing equilibrium in the region.

The United States and Iran are both motivated by rational self-interest and a desire to maximize their national security. Sober realpolitik dictates that they should work together to achieve their mutual goals. Stability in Iraq and Afghanistan is clearly an interest the United States and Iran have in common, with both having essentially supported the same governments in Baghdad and Afghanistan since the toppling of their predecessors. This mutual interest has been demonstrated most consequentially in the fight against ISIS, which has seen both U.S. military and Iranian Revolutionary Guard advisors on the ground buttressing Iraqi forces.

In areas where serious differences exist, such as Syria and Yemen, these differences can be alleviated through the development of a diplomatic road map aimed at finding a political solution amicable to all relevant parties. In both Syria and Yemen, such a solution would ideally be centered on the following points: fostering inclusive cooperation in the fight against groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, preserving the territorial integrity of both countries, preventing the collapse of military and security institutions, advancing political transition through a power-sharing system that secures majority rule and minority rights and arranging a free election supervised by UN monitors. Such an outcome in Yemen and Syria would be in the interests of Iran and the United States.

Ultimately, peace between Iran and the United States can also clear the path for the construction of a regional cooperation system that provides security and stability to the Persian Gulf and ensures peace between Iran and its neighbors, most importantly Saudi Arabia. Such a development would secure the stable flow of hydrocarbons out of the Persian Gulf and lead to the end of the proxy wars consuming the region today. It would allow the United States to gradually withdraw from the region, saving it billions of dollars and allowing it to rededicate its resources and attention to more pressing concerns.

While on recess, members of Congress should be cognizant of the significance of this deal and resist pressure to quash it from special interests groups that benefit from never-ending hostility between the United States and Iran. Arguably the most tragic consequence of Congress killing the deal would be that it would eliminate the prospect for greater U.S.-Iran cooperation in the region on areas of mutual concern. It would lock in continued enmity between the United States and Iran, serving only to exacerbate tension and conflict across the Middle East. To go down this path when such a mutually advantageous alternative exists would truly be a blunder of historic proportions.

Historic Iran Deal