Ray Takeyh, writing for the Wall Street Journal:
The U.S. and Iran are struggling to conclude what could be one of the most permissive arms-control agreements in history. Defenders of a deal insist that the U.S. could still hold Iran accountable for its pernicious policies, regardless of an accord. Such assurances miss the point that maintenance of an arms-control agreement is inconsistent with a coercive policy. Signing a nuclear agreement with a nation acknowledges that that state is a responsible actor. The framework under consideration suggests that the Islamic Republic will be left with a substantial nuclear infrastructure that is likely to grow, over time, in size and sophistication. By concluding an accord with Iran, the Obama administration is effectively vouching that the clerical regime is a suitable custodian of nuclear technologies and that it can be trusted with a program that may eventually reach an industrial scale. A nuclear agreement would not only legitimize Iran’s program but also signal to the region that the U.S. sees Iran as a power whose claims have to be taken into account. In the American imagination, arms control and détente are joined. Many in Washington are likely to call for improved relations with Iran in the aftermath of a deal. If the two powers can settle the nuclear issue, this thinking holds, then surely they can cooperate on topics of common concern such as the rise of Islamic State and ending Syria’s civil war. A superpower that has grown tired of the burdens of the Arab world can reasonably turn to a seemingly responsible stakeholder to stabilize the region. Now, consider that in the 1970s the United States, feeling overstretched, turned to another arms-control partner, the Soviet Union, for help extracting itself from Southeast Asia. The history of such actions isn’t the only concern here: The notion of constraining Iran has no place in a policy that looks for areas of cooperation between the two states. Even if the U.S. were determined to hold the line and push back against Iran’s actions in the region, in the wake of a nuclear deal it may not have the necessary coercive power. For much of the past three decades, Washington has responded to Iranian terrorism and regional aggression by applying economic sanctions. But a nuclear agreement would commit the U.S. to lessening the financial pressure on Iran. Today, Iran is segregated from the global financial markets and sanctions inhibit its central bank. But with such sanctions revoked under an accord, and given the inadvisability of using force, future U.S. presidents’ coercive options will be sparse. Subsequent administrations may have no choice but to accommodate Iran, whatever its actions.
Whole thing here.