The nuclear deal with Iran is being sold by its deal makers as the only alternative to war. This black and white view of diplomacy seems totally irrelevant in a world that is exemplified with many shades of grey.
If the deal is shot down, will this lead to war and carnage? Maybe…maybe not. One thing is for certain…nobody knows.
The Black & White Scenario
- The deal is ratified by the Majlis and Congress (or Obama’s veto): Sanctions are lifted and as long as Tehran doesn’t try to militarize its nuclear program nor hamper the IAEA inspectors from doing their jobs, one can expect peace, love and a lot of money. In another ten years, Iran may give up on trying to build nukes simply because the business part of Iran becomes more powerful than the nuke part of Iran.
- The deal is shot down by either Congress (overriding Obama’s veto) and/or the Majlis: A big brawl erupts over sanctions (since the UN and the EU as well as Russia and China want to drop the sanctions) and the US heads to war with Israel, Saudi Arabia and other allies who want to prove their friendship to the US or who hate Iran with a passion.
This all makes sense in a perfectly simple world with one possible outcome for every input – this is what Obama/Kerry and Rouhani/Zarif are selling.
Unfortunately, or not, life is much more complicated, specially when the key players have vastly opposing world views and nobody is working in a vacuum: Iran and the US will probably remain enemies for quite a while even if a deal is signed and the EU, Russia and China have their own agendas regarding Iran and the US which are not based solely on Iran’s nuclear program.
The Innumerable Shades of Grey Scenarios
Will Tehran drop the deal and give up on the fact that the EU and the UN already approved the deal while China and Russia are backing the deal? Probably not since the deal will give Tehran the leverage it needs to divide the P5+1 and make do with the US sanctions that will be kept in place.
Will the US head for war at this point? Probably not since it lost the power of presenting Iran with a united front and American public opinion will not support another war that resembles too much the war on Iraq, minus the support of the EU.
Will Tehran then rush for the bomb? Probably not simply because it knows that by doing so it will not only give the US and some of the P5+1 a good reason to head to war whatever the costs, it will also result in more sanctions being slapped on by the UN and the EU.
And now let’s contemplate another option: Washington does back the deal (Congress’s vote or Obama’s veto)…
Will the Majlis ratify the deal? Possibly…nobody really knows whether Khamenei will back the deal knowing that many of his “red lines” were crossed and that the hardliners and the IRGC seem dead against the deal.
Let’s suppose they do – Will Iran stick to the deal? That really depends on whether the regime maintains its world view to “change the international order” and continue in its efforts to export the revolutions because as Zarif and Khamenei both stated, “without revolutionary goals we do not exist”. If so, then Iran will probably break the deal at one point or another or force the P5+1 to break the deal by dragging its heels.
But perhaps, there will be a change in the regime as a result of the deal? Possibly because the power of money can overcome the power of the revolution and the benefiters of the deal will have a lot to lose. Unfortunately for them, they will have to fight the IRGC to reach that goal so one can expect a lot of bloodshed. The outcome of a counter-revolution is impossible to even speculate on as one can learn from the consequences of the Arab Spring in other countries.
What will happen if the Majlis doesn’t back the deal…what then? Iran may lose some of its power to divide and conquer the P5+1 but will probably find that Russia and China are good enough allies and that some countries from the EU will be ready to risk it.
Now, what about Israel? Will Israel head to an open war? Possibly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Iran will retaliate with an all-out war. Israel already bombed reactors in Iraq and in Syria without going into a full out war while Iran will be hard put to find allies to fight at its side apart from Lebanon (no relevant militarily), Syria (embroiled in a civil war) and Iraq (at war with ISIS). Furthermore Israel might be able to convince some other Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain etc…who are wary of Iran’s efforts at regional dominance.
On the other hand, Israel might give up on attacking Iran knowing that if Iran does retaliate, the costs of such a war would be huge and Israeli public opinion will not stand for it.
Chances are that the future will show that yet another scenario will take place – the possibilities are endless. But one thing is certain, neither the supporters nor the critics of the nuclear deal really know what will happen. We can only hope that all the countries involved will not drag the world into a war which had the potential to turn into a global conflict.