The successful negotiation of the nuclear deal between Iran and the international community has brought to light the vast potential of diplomacy as a primary tool to achieve our interests abroad.
The biggest lesson we learned is that diplomacy works. Long seen as the option of the weak in the days of the Bush administration, diplomacy is now seen as a viable strategy that can achieve the same results, if not better, than military strikes do. And apart from its effectiveness, it’s shown that it can be achieved without the cost of military action. The Iran deal has shown that by simply putting in time to talk, we can save resources without sacrificing effectiveness. The US has shown that it is a strong diplomatic force, and that it can negotiate to advance its most pressing interests. Hopefully, future administrations will now see diplomacy as the primary vehicle for our nation’s foreign policy goals.
Another insight we have gained is that the US must be prepared not only to engage with nations it mistrusts, but also to resist the easy route of immediately giving into hawks who call for war. It may have been tempting to heed the calls of war against a nation that took our citizens hostage and is perceived as a threat to multiple allies in the region.
However, by having the patience to negotiate, we came away having achieved something far better than we would have, had we listened to the warmongers. Iran is now under an intense spotlight and verification system that will all but ensure it will not be able to even think of weaponizing its nuclear program without the world seeing. The breakout time for a nuclear bomb is now 10 years minimum, as opposed to the two years that experts believe a military strike would achieve. And all of this is without any of our armed forces’ men and women put in harms way, with no bullets fired, civilians killed, or money wasted.
This brings us to the current state of US-Iran relations and what it means for our interests in the region. Decades of hostility will not be overcome because of this deal. The deal is based on verification, not trust. What this shows is that we are able to influence those with whom we have disagreements with, and this strategy can potentially be used with the whole region for positive long-term results.
Of course, since mistrust still exists, we must continue to apply pressure to Iran to stop its support of the Assad regime and change its actions to cease, and not encourage, the civil war in the country.
As geopolitical rallies change, it is necessary for our approaches to evolve to whatever is most effective and that which decreases bloodshed. Military conflict does not need to be the first choice.