Gary Samore checks in on negotiations with Iran:
[Khamenei] sees a nuclear deal as a way to relieve the immediate threat of economic sanctions, but not as an opening to improve overall U.S.-Iranian relations, much less a strategic decision to abandon Iran’s longstanding nuclear weapons program. Other Iranians, of course, have different hopes. Some Iranians whisper that the United States should be lenient on nuclear terms to help President Rouhani achieve a victory so that he can defeat hardliner factions in the November 2015 legislative elections and ultimately shift Iranian foreign policy in a more moderate direction. Even if true—and it might be—President Obama cannot sell a nuclear deal on the basis of secret promises from closet reformers. He needs to be able to demonstrate real, long-term constraints on Iran’s ability to produce fissile material, and so far there’s no sign President Rouhani can deliver, even if he wanted to. If a deal is to be had, the supreme leader will have to be convinced to sacrifice his nuclear achievements to save the economy.
Michael Young considers Iran’s role in the Arab world:
In some countries where it sees the possibility of controlling the commanding heights of decision-making, the Islamic Republic will perpetuate dynamics of unity. Lebanon is a good example.
However, in countries where political, sectarian and ethnic divisions make this impossible, Iran will exacerbate fragmentation. In that way, it can control chunks of a country, usually the center, while enhancing the marginalization and debilitation of areas not under its authority. Iraq and Syria are good illustrations of this version of creative chaos.
Whether the Iranian approach has been an effective one is a different question altogether. Certainly, it has given Tehran considerable latitude to be a regional player and obstruct outcomes that might harm its interests. But there is also fundamental instability in a strategy based on exploiting conflict and volatility, denying Iran the permanence it has historically achieved through its creation of lasting institutions.
Elliot Abrams adds:
[I]n the Arab world, the critical Iran issue is not its nuclear program but Iran’s aggression, subversion, and interference in Arab countries’ politics. And the fear is widespread in the Arab world that any U.S.-Iran nuclear deal will only give Iran greater resources (when sanctions are lifted) and more freedom of maneuver. Nothing President Obama said in his West Point speech [last] week will diminish that fear; in fact, the President’s words will likely increase the sense in the Arab world that his interest in an Iran nuclear agreement may lead to a bad deal and to acceptance of other Iranian misconduct as part of the price for an agreement.