The Iran Deal and Iran-US Relations

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Behzad Khoshandam
Ph.D. in International Relations & Expert on International Issues

Negotiations are still going on between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries after the two sides issued a statement of mutual understanding in the Swiss city of Lausanne on April 2. One of the most important challenging issues related to achievement and implementation of a possible agreement between the two sides is continuation of international political and diplomatic distrust with respect to interaction with Iran as a result of the prospect of future relations between Iran and the United States. Therefore, the positions taken by US President Barack Obama in his interviews with the New York Times and Asharq Al-Awsat newspapers, in addition to the holding of Camp David Summit and Obama’s interview with al-Arabiya network, were aimed at preparing Arab states to accept the reality of Iran's strategic influence, and were, in fact, a step by the United States in direction of an American-style regulation of ties with Iran. They also raised expectations about an alteration of direction in Iran-US relations on the basis of Obama’s idea of change in relation to Iran and the Middle East.

Serious historical hostility between Iran and the United States for more than three decades is an issue with complex and technical historical roots and is a result of very negative historical mentalities, different interpretations of strategic and regional interests, various views of and expectations from international bodies, as well as different interpretations and expectations of the two sides with regard to regional and international order. Therefore, imagining Iran and the United States as strategic partners as a result of the achievement of a possible comprehensive nuclear deal will be only simplification of interactions, hostilities, and understanding of strategic intentions of these two actors subsequent to the achievement and implantation of such an assumed agreement.

Achievement of a comprehensive nuclear deal will temporarily allay regional and strategic conflicts and rivalries between these two actors, but will not necessarily solve them and will only provide the two sides with a working framework for mutual understanding on the regulation of bilateral ties in the near future.

In the most optimistic scenario and, at least, in short term, a possible agreement will lead to remarkable boost in economic, trade and civil cooperation between the two sides. However, the main conditions for the realization and deepening of this cooperation are binding the two sides to abide by their mutual obligations, respect for spheres of influence in a bid to regulate the two countries’ relations for the three or four next decades, as well as stabilizing relations and interactions in those fields that are related to common strategic national interests of the two countries.

According to the most pessimistic scenario, strategic suspicions of the two countries against each other will increase on a daily basis in short term especially with regard to international and regional role and influence of Iran. This situation will be a serious setback to expectations about cooperation and will push the two countries toward more bumpy roads.

There are, however, intermediate and more balanced scenarios based on which the two sides will move in line with a possible comprehensive agreement. One of such scenarios is establishment of “relative peace” on the basis of “constructive interaction” between these two actors in available fields of cooperation on regional and international issues in parallel to the continuation of strategic rivalry over other specific issues based on the expectations of both sides, including Iran, about working with big powers, including the role of American exceptionalism. Regionalization of international security and asymmetrical threats, emerging signs of the non-Western new Asian order, importance attached to the role of nongovernmental and network-based actors, widening ethnic and racial gaps in the Middle East, and cooperation between Iran and the United States over issues related to their common international interests such as fighting the ISIS, are all among primary grounds that increase the chances of this scenario taking place in Iran-US relations.

Given the contextual nature of the United States foreign policy in the face of Iran exception, the type of future ties between Tehran and Washington will have a considerable effect on stability and building security in the Middle East region. Major variables that will play an effective role in this regard include the type of presence and actions taken by big powers in the Middle East region, regional balance, presence and role of such important regional and international organizations as the NATO and the European Union, as well as the type, magnitude and possible direction of relations between the United States and regional Arab states.

Future outlook of regionalism in the Middle East, situation of regional coalitions, future architecture of regional security, regional geopolitics, ethnic tendencies and emergence of new ideologies, nation-state building crisis, and existence of failed states in addition to regional balance are major factors that will be affected by developments in Iran-US relations.

Despite different interpretations of regional stability and Iran's hegemonic role in the Middle East by Iranian and American sides, and despite various interpretations of and expectations from important international institutions such as the United Nations Security Council, the Iran deal will remain gravitational center of differing views and strategic and security-based challenges in the two countries’ future relations.

Key Words: Iran Deal, Iran-US Relations, P5+1, Barack Obama, Camp David Summit, Middle East, Regional and International Order, American Exceptionalism, NATO, European Union, Regional Security, Khoshandam

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