Q&A on Iran Nuclear Deal

UMass Dartmouth Professor Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, who has published extensively on issues related to terrorism and war in the Middle East, offers reaction to the significance of the Iran Deal.

An agreement has been reached this week between Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear ability. UMass Dartmouth Professor Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, who has published extensively on issues related to terrorism and war in the Middle East, offers reaction to the significance of the Iran Deal, the ripple effect it could have across the Middle East, and how it could affect U.S.-Israel relations. 

In President Obama's remarks, he compared the Iran Deal to those made with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It has also been referenced as the President's "Nixon in China" moment. Are these fair comparisons? 

BW: This is a very apt comparison. In the Cold War it was Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's warning to the U.S., "we will bury you!" Today, it is the chants of the hardliners in Iran that the U.S. is the "Great Satan." But ultimately, Republican President Nixon went to China to forge a thaw in relations and Republican President Reagan met Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik to sign a nuclear missile treaty. Both of those efforts garnered criticism from hardliners at home who were critical of any efforts to meet the enemy half way, but were ultimately seen as successes. 

What is the ripple effect this deal can have throughout the Middle East in the short- and long-term? 

BW: The agreement to end Iran's isolation could end decades of Iranian hostility towards the U.S. and create greater domestic support for moderates in Tehran who signed the deal when sanctions are lifted. A possible result from the agreement could be greater collaboration between the Iranian regime and the U.S. in the struggle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But hardliners in Iran could, on the other hand be emboldened from the lifting of sanctions on the import of conventional weapons, to become a more aggressive player in the Middle East, from Yemen to Syria to Israel. While it will be prevented from joining the "nuclear club," Iran could become more belligerent in the conventional military sense if its weaponry, especially ballistic missiles, is improved via imports from China and Russia. 

Israeli leaders have made reference to the nuclear deal as a "dark day in history" and "historic mistake." How does this deal affect Israel-U.S. relations? 

BW: Like the Sunni Arab states, Israel does not trust Iran's long-term intentions and feels that Obama has been duped. But the fact remains that the American-Israeli alliance is the cornerstone of U.S. policy in the region and the two countries' interests are too intertwined for this deal to seriously hurt their overall relations. The Israelis can still count on the Obama administration to veto votes in the UN that sanction them vis-a-vis the Palestinians and for billions of dollars in annual support for their military. 

How important is it for the President to "sell" this deal to Congress? 

BW: As in Iran, where hardliners have come out against moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for "selling out Iran" to the Americans, Obama is under pressure from hardline Republicans in Congress. But even if they vote against the treaty, they will not be able to get enough Democrats to support them and overturn it. The Republicans will be unable to find a veto-proof two-thirds majority in both chambers to override the agreement since most Democrats support it (Obama has said he will veto any resolution to block the deal). For this reason there is less pressure on the President to "sell" the deal than there might appear at first glance. The greatest pressure will be on President Rouhani to rein in hardliners who may try to prevent implementation of the treaty's intrusive inspections and sell it to skeptics in his country.    

About Brian Glyn Williams 

Brian Glyn Williams is a Professor of Islamic History at UMass Dartmouth. His book, Afghanistan Declassified, was originally published by the U.S. Army to provide troops with an overview of the culture, history and terrain of Afghanistan. Another book, The Last Warlord, details how a U.S. alliance with an Afghan warlord helped topple the Taliban. His book Predators: The CIA's Drone War on al Qaeda received widespread attention and was credited by the Grammy Award-winning band Muse as inspiration for the band's new concept album, "Drones." Dr. Williams is currently working on a new book on ISIS.


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