The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Let's hear from two supporters of the agreement.
First, there is Aaron Stein, speaking with Max Fisher of Vox.com:
I was always skeptical of "snapback" [the provision that any sanctions would snap back into place if Iran is caught cheating] because of the likelihood that China or Russia would veto any such move to go back. It looks like they were able to get around that. But once these sanctions start to come off, I think it will be very difficult to then put them back on, even if the snapback is relatively strong on paper.
So what if Iran cheats and refuses to concede if sanctions are reimposed? Stein again: "If sanctions are implemented, then, absent changes, the military force issue would come back." But wait, Stein doesn't believe that the sanctions will be reimposed to begin with, even if Iran cheats. And there's nothing in the agreement that allows the U.S. to use military force if sanctions are reimposed and don't work. And President Obama has publicly argued that military action would be ineffective.
Then there is Chuck Freilich in the New York Times:
President Obama negotiated from a position of weakness and conveyed a message that failure to obtain a deal was not an option. He misguidedly took the military option off the table long ago and made it clear that a return to sanctions would be a poor outcome.
Indeed, Iran will be allowed to retain its nuclear infrastructure instead of dismantling it, and most parts of the agreement are limited to 10 to 15 years, instead of being permanent. It remains to be seen what inspections Iran will actually allow, and the dispute resolution mechanism is cumbersome.
The agreement also does not address Iran's destructive regional role, including its support for terrorism. In fact, the added revenue it will receive as a result of the relaxation of sanctions may enable more aggressive action.
Both Stein and Freilich seem to rest their defense of the agreement on the fact that Iran is unlikely to be able to violate the agreement without being detected. The United States can then either shout "Liar Liar Pants on Fire" or take out Iran's nuclear program militarily. Which means that President Obama is relying on the threat of some future president taking the sort of military action that Obama himself took off the table and claims wouldn't work anyway.
I'm no expert in nuclear nonproliferation agreements, and I therefore can't give an informed commentary on the ins and outs of the nuclear agreement with Iran. But if Stein and Freilich's arguments are the sort of things that supporters of the agreement believe, it's hard to imagine that there is cause for optimism.
UPDATE: In another less-than-cheering commentary, Aaron David Miller, who less than two years ago was praising the Obama Administration's "pretty good" record in the Middle East, predicts that Iran won't cheat-because it got too good a deal to be tempted to undermine it.