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The Lessons of the Syria Deal, in Iran and Beyond

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013

In late-August and early September, when the Obama administration was still seeking to generate support for the use of force against Syria after Damascus had crossed the “red line” of large-scale use of chemical weapons, one of the arguments it used was that failure to do so would undermine the credibility of America’s threat to strike Iran if Tehran ever built nuclear weapons. That argument may have been true at the time, but the situation has become more complex since the U.S. and Russia reached an agreement to disarm Syria’s chemical weapons peacefully. By explicitly stating, partly for domestic reasons in order to win the backing of Congress and public opinion, that the major stake in Syria was Iran, the Obama administration has tied its Iran policy to the outcome of the Syria deal.

Tehran is now even more likely to draw its own lessons on the nuclear issue from what happens in Syria. What will these lessons be? Several different scenarios for the coming months have to be considered. Given the broader geostrategic implications for the Middle East and beyond, these scenarios are not as straightforward as one might believe, and none of them lead inexorably to a single conclusion. ...

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