The stakes for Iran’s enemies, both in the region and throughout the world, couldn’t be higher.
Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism.
It is hostile to tenets of true democracy, especially when it comes to free expression.
It is a theocracy.
It has a long memory, particularly when it comes to the U.S.’s central role in deposing Iran’s duly elected leader in 1953.
It’s all too comfortable rattling sabers against its enemies, particularly Israel.
For these reasons and others, an Iran with nukes makes the world nervous.
Yet, the “what comes next?” question puts diplomats in a quandary. A pre-emptive strike (or even invasion) of Iran by the United States and/or other Western allies is only a last resort. A region that has seen a decade’s worth of seismic shocks — fighting in Iraq and Syria leap to mind — could hardly stand a similar conflict in Iran.
That leaves economic sanctions as the prime weapon to pressure Iran into dropping its nuclear ambitions. The problem is they take time and must be fine-tuned with precision.
Evidence suggests that just such sanctions by the United States and its allies brought the Iranians to the bargaining table earlier this year. Sanctions are at the heart of a deal announced over the weekend. Iran will pause its nuclear weapons program in exchange for partial lifting of some of the economic sanctions.
It’s clear that ramped up economic penalties against Iran have punished that nation’s economy.
All sides described Sunday’s deal as merely the first step in a longer process. What remains unknown is if the threat of renewed sanctions or even harsher ones (as some members of Congress suggest) will be enough to secure from Iran a rock-solid pledge to completely shelf its pursuit of these weapons of mass destruction.