This agreement may best demonstrate the limits of United States power in a changing world scene. After Iraq and Afghanistan, the framework of this agreement reflects a radical shift in how the United States intends to operate within Southwest Asia. America is no longer prepared to invest troops and military support for regime change or to alter the balance of power in this region. Instead, America has shifted the focus of its interests and actions to a new brand of diplomacy and political compromise.
Washington under this administration has elected to pursue a foreign policy of rationale engagement, first with Communist Cuba and now with the Islamic Republic of Iran; the assumptions underlying this strategy have been constructed around the following principle: in fostering policies of recognition and openness, one can and will alter the character and actions of these national systems. Cuban human rights practices and economic policies are supposedly to change as a result of American recognition and economic intervention. Similarly, Iran’s aggressive political and military behavior as a regional power will ultimately be altered as a result of its diplomatic encounter with Washington.
Does this deal strike a historical reminder of British Prime Minister Chamberlain’s Munich declaration in 1938, “Peace in our time” as Hitler willingly entered into such a pact only to violate it a year later as part of Nazi campaign to conquer Europe?
The irony here it is no longer the bomb that represents the central issue in this conversation, it is Iran’s legitimacy as a regional power that Washington has empowered and restored by this arrangement. The victory for both Cuba and Iran is “in the process” of engaging the United States in order to provide each of these regimes a new level of credibility and status.
Indeed, unless other secretive agreements were produced in Geneva that were designed to transform Iranian domestic policies at home or military inventionist practices abroad, it is unlikely that the world will see a different character to the regime in Tehran. Quite the reverse, with its new diplomatic standing and the corollary economic benefits associated with this deal, Iran will feel emboldened to grow its political clout and activism within the Middle East. Millions of dollars are scheduled to flow back into Iran as sanctions are removed and funds held by Western banks are returned to the Iranian government.
The losers include Sunni Muslims across the Middle East who feel that they have been sold out by the United States; the State of Israel who will have fewer options in dealing with a repositioned Iranian government and military, and the people of Iran who will find few political or economic benefits derived from this agreement. How can or will some of these actors trust again the United States to protect or advance their interests? The Egyptians, Saudis, and Turks must all be contemplating at this hour the need to acquire new weapon systems, including nuclear ones, to offset the impending rise of a militarily strengthened Iranian Republic.
Indeed, for Jews around the world, the license to practice and preach anti-Semitism under the framework of anti-Zionism will now continue as the Iranian government seeks to pursue its strategy of the liquidation of the Jewish State and the destruction of the Jewish people.
Among the big winners here, beyond the Iranian hardliners, will likely be the German and Russian investors waiting and ready to return to Tehran’s markets.
When historians write this chapter of diplomatic history, what will they ultimately say about this transformative moment in the story of America in the world, the unfolding of the Middle East, and the future of the Jewish State?
Dr. Steven Windmueller is Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles.