On Saturday night, a transitional agreement between Iran and the West was inked in Geneva, the first accord between the United States and Iran in over three decades. The deal, which will temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program, and roll some elements of the program back — for example, the accord includes the dilution of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile. The US’s side of the bargain includes relieving Iran from about $7 billion in imposed sanctions.
The interim nuclear deal offers a much-needed pivot away from domestic issues for the administration, which has been embroiled in controversy over its bug-ridden rollout of the Affordable Care Act. For much of Obama’s second term, domestic issues have distracted and detracted from the administration’s foreign policy, and the promised American pivot to the Pacific.
This pivot was meant to assert the United States as a Pacific power, rather than one interested in nation building in the Middle East, a counter to the growing hegemony of China over the Asia-Pacific region.
For China, regional hegemony in the Pacific has been a long term goal, the culmination of decades of interior deliberations, now publicly expressed in its diplomatic and economic behavior in the region, and its push for territorial rights over broad stripes of the South China Seas, through which trillions of dollars of international commerce are freighted each year and have traditionally existed within the diplomatic orbit and influence of the United States.
The idea of a pivot to Asia — which would constitute a more forceful response to Chinese ascendancy in the region than anything we’ve yet seen — depends upon first defusing tensions in the Middle East. While the interim deal with Iran falls short of, say, a peace accord between Israel and Palestine, it is still a significant diplomatic victory for the West.
It’s an event coupled with the ultimatum that Susan E. Rice, the president’s national security advisor, made to Afghani president Hamid Karzai the Monday following the Iranian accord: that Karzai must also sign a security pact with the United States, or else American troops would be summarily and permanently pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
It is too early to determine what the impact of these diplomatic moves will mean for the region and American foreign policy moving forward; but there is room for optimism that the Iranian accord will signal a softening of Iran’s vehemently isolationist position, borne out of the hostilities of the past thirty years.
After over a decade of continuous American warfare, it is also a relief to see the U.S. responding to the Middle East with diplomatic strategies, rather than military ones. In an increasingly codependent world, American power will have to be expressed in ways beyond simple military might if it wishes to survive past the 21st century.
Apolitical is a blog that covers current events, politics and culture from a progressive perspective — bringing the world at large to the Malibubble, one post at a time.
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