Once a major diplomatic agreement is inked, the world typically reacts by holding its breath, waiting to see if it will all turn out alright.
Some deals, like the Munich Pact, crumble quickly. Others, like the Camp David accords, hang in there. But, rarely has there been a deal like the one reached in Vienna last night—a deal in which all the nations most closely affected by it, including Iran, pretty much start out knowing it won’t end well.
All this will weigh heavily on the U.S. Congress as it preps for a vote on the pact. In particular, they will struggle with how to reconcile the promise that it will manage Iran’s heretofore unmanageable nuclear program with the fact that it does nothing to change the conditions that have made that impossible.
Even if all the countries concerned ratify the results of the P5+1 talks, the red flags worrying most of the capitals in the Middle East will be flying as high as they were before the deal was signed. There are four of them.
1. The whole neighborhood will race to go nuclear. The number-one concern with the way this deal was structured was that it was bound to accelerate nuclear proliferation. Iran has violated its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and repeatedly thumbed its nose at oversight from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Yet it winds up getting a great deal under the agreement—better, in fact, than the deal the United States gives its friends and allies through the 123 Civil Nuclear Agreements. If regional powers like Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia believe that the likelihood of Iran getting a weapon is undiminished and the penalty for becoming a nuclear breakout power is plummeting, then the deterrent for them to cross the nuclear threshold drops as well.
2. Tehran gets to keep its vast nuclear infrastructure and its missile program.