The new realities post-Iran deal

The new realities post-Iran deal
US Secretary of John Kerry speaks next to Richard Nathan Haass (L) at the Council on Foreign Relations about the Iran nuclear agreement on July 24, 2015 in New York.

Both the critics and the supporters in the United States of President Barack Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran are right.

The critics are correct that the agreement to limit Teheran's nuclear programme is, from a US point of view, a deeply disappointing outcome.

The deal does impose real limits on Iran's nuclear programme, but not for long.

It only defers, for little more than a decade at best, the day when Iran can build nuclear weapons, and it does nothing to strengthen US leadership against the challenge posed by Iran's growing power and influence across the Middle East.

But the nuclear agreement's supporters are also right.

This is the best deal available, and the only alternative to taking it, with all its faults, is to walk away from any deal at all.

And that means living with a nuclear-armed Iran sooner rather than later.

That suggests it is better to do the deal than abandon it, even though it does so much less than what Washington was aiming for when it began this process almost 10 years ago.

Back then, the idea was to crush Iran's nuclear ambitions and contain its growing regional influence once and for all.

Americans must now be asking themselves why that goal is being abandoned so they now face so stark a choice between two such bad alternatives.

How come there are no better options available to the world's most powerful country, they wonder, when the stakes are so high?

Iran is, after all, the original "rogue state", defying US power and prestige in the most blatant, and at times humiliating ,ways for over 35 years.

Moreover, preventing such states from getting nuclear weapons has arguably been the US' No. 1 foreign-policy priority since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

So leaving Iran, of all countries, with a path to nuclear weapons sometime in the future seems like a particularly bitter failure.

Above all, it is an outcome which brings Americans face to face with the limits to their country's power.

The US is, and will always remain, an exceptionally strong country, but it is simply not as strong as Americans have been led to believe.

Ever since the Soviet Union imploded, they have been told that the US stands unchallengeable at the apex of the global order, strong enough to shape the world to its wishes and in its image.

Of course, this confidence has taken a few knocks, for example, when the invasion of Iraq turned to ashes a decade ago.

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