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Where Obama Went Wrong on Iran

JERUSALEM – The pros and cons of the accord with Iran over its nuclear program will be debated extensively over the next two months, in the run-up to a vote on the deal by the US Congress. But the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will be judged by its implementation, which will take years.

Nonetheless, two things are already clear. First, the JCPOA’s weakest provisions – both cumbersome and open to competing interpretations – are those covering compliance and verification. So some skepticism about implementation is in order.

Second, and more immediately, the very achievement of an agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) has already begun to affect the regional balance of power. Indeed, it is legitimate to ask whether Western (and especially US) negotiators were aware of the geopolitical implications of the deal.

Even at this early stage, it is apparent that the agreement has empowered Iran regionally. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite regime lavished praise on the agreement, rightly recognizing that enhanced international legitimacy and financial resources will enable Shia Iran to provide greater backing. Assad’s other major regional ally, Lebanon’s Hezbollah (which the US classifies as a terrorist organization) also supports the deal. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is also happy to have received US assistance, however indirectly, in strengthening Assad’s hold on power.