US historian: What Obama just said is 'stunningly optimistic'

Obama

REUTERS/Andrew Harnik/Pool
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks with Vice President Joe Biden at his side as he delivers a statement about the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six major world powers during an early morning address to the nation from the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 14, 2015.

“We have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.” – Barack Obama, July 14, 2015

David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of FP Group, called President Barack Obama’s statement on the historic Iranian nuclear deal “stunningly optimistic.” 

The Iran nuclear agreement finalised Tuesday in Vienna is perhaps the most significant foreign policy achievement for Obama, who will now seek to persuade Congress to approve the deal in the next 60 days.

“In our time, the risk is that nuclear weapons will spread to more and more countries, particularly in the Middle East, the most volatile region in the world,” Obama said in a statement from the White House on Tuesday. “We have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.”

Rothkopf noted that the 10- to 15-year time limits on the deal’s main provision imply that Obama’s main assertion does not hold up to scrutiny. 

Rothkopf added that the deal “is not an end it is the beginning of a very long difficult process and will depend on enforcement, future deals to work.”

Rothkopf argued that weaknesses of the deal, besides its limited duration, include significant sanctions relief benefits in the short term, the fact that it will be tough to enforce, and that it doesn’t address greatest Iran threats — such as running proxy wars and fuelling international terrorism.

Rouhani nuke dealscreenshot/CNN‘Today the most important countries in the world recognise our right to nuclear energy,’ Rouhani told Iran after the deal. ‘Today is end and also the beginning.’

“Iran sees a sanctions relief deal, US/EU sees weapons relief deal, region holds breath sees deal that doesn’t address main Iranian threats,” Rothkopf noted.

Iran will see tens of billions of dollars of sanctions relief as the deal is implemented. A primary question about the sanctions relief regards how much of that money Iran will spend as the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) directs wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

The New York Times notes that Obama “has told his aides that he expects relatively little to be spent to finance terrorism or the emerging corps of Iranian cyberwarriors, a group now as elite as Iran’s nuclear scientists.”

But experts such as Rothkopf disagree with that assessment.

“For example, even if the Iranians got only $US100 billion and used 90% to help the economy, the remaining $US10 billion would have a potentially big impact in places like Syria, Iraq, and Yemen,” he wrote in May. “Further, no one among the regional experts with whom I have recently spoken felt that the Iranians would use a fraction as low as 10% of the monies in support of their regional policies.”

Rothkopf added on Tuesday that “Obama lays out thesis as to why he is hopeful deal will produce change in Iran. Hope he is right. Hope this works. Lotta hope going on here.” 

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