Despite Nuclear Accord, U.S.-Iran Tensions Are on the Rise.
Conviction of U.S. journalist, testing of ballistic missiles heighten concerns among deal’s U.S. critics.
WASHINGTON— Jay Solomon reports: Tensions between the U.S. and Iran, rather than easing as a result of July’s nuclear accord, are increasing over a wide spectrum of issues tied to the broader Middle East security landscape and to domestic Iranian politics, current and former U.S. officials say.
“Fears are mounting in Washington and Europe that these two conflicts could fuel a much broader regional war, in which Iran and Saudi Arabia are the chief protagonists.”
Just in the past two days, Iran has test-fired a ballistic missile and announced the conviction of American journalist Jason Rezaian, fueling suspicions the historic nuclear agreement has allowed Tehran’s Islamist clerics to step up their long-held anti-U.S. agenda.
Washington’s closest Mideast allies, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia, are more broadly concerned about Iran’s ability to use the diplomatic cover provided by the nuclear accord—and the promised release of tens of billions of dollars of frozen oil revenues—to strengthen its regional position and that of its allies.
“There’s a risk that nonnuclear issues could sink the overall deal. The optics are terrible.”
—Richard Nephew, a former top negotiator with Iran
Iran last month launched a joint military operation with Russia in Syria aimed at stabilizing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, Tehran’s closest regional ally, according to Iranian and Russian officials.
Iran has also continued to ship arms and money to Houthi rebels in Yemen, who seized the country’s capital this year but are now facing an expansive counteroffensive led by Saudi Arabia, according to Arab officials.
Fears are mounting in Washington and Europe that these two conflicts could fuel a much broader regional war, in which Iran and Saudi Arabia are the chief protagonists.
The Obama administration’s ability to implement the nuclear accord amid such tumult could be compromised, said former U.S. officials involved in the Iran diplomacy.
“There’s a risk that nonnuclear issues could sink the overall deal,” said Richard Nephew, who was a top negotiator with Iran up until late 2014. “The optics are terrible.”
“Both in its nuclear negotiations and its consideration of Americans detained in Iran, the administration has shown a dangerous naiveté regarding who it is dealing with.”
—Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Obama administration officials on Monday stressed that the July 14 agreement is solely focused on denying Iran the capability to develop an atomic weapon, and not solving these regional problems.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. was closely monitoring both Iran’s missile test on Sunday and Mr. Rezaian’s legal case to decide if and how to respond. Read the rest of this entry »