By contrast, even a bad deal would not be the end of the story. It would be the beginning of some tough homework for the international community. It would require the United States and Europe to remain steadfast in their unity vis-à-vis Iran. Allies would have to work hard to continue negotiations over tough verification and inspections measures and be willing to keep up the pressure on Iran and continue to sanction violations of any agreement. Trans-Atlantic partners would have to think hard how the legitimate security concerns of Israel can be addressed. Yet, without a deal we fall back into a situation without viable channels of communication. As we know these silent times have brought zero progress on nuclear disarmament but we saw the number of Iranian centrifuges spiraling.
Admitting this lack of alternatives is not a leap of faith to the Iranian regime. With its policy of supporting militias and terrorists in the region, with its dire human rights record, with its denial of Israel’s right to exist, Iran’s government cannot become a trusted partner. Reaching a nuclear deal or the presence of the Islamic State do not change this fundamental equation. But demonizing the country is no viable alternative. It only fuels the regime’s rhetoric of “resistance” and contributes to further entrenchment of all the concerned parties. We have to see Iran as what it is: a regional power with considerable influence but limited means. We have to work together where our interests coincide and we have to signal clearly which policies we are not willing to tolerate. Any nuclear deal, even if it is deemed a bad one, is a step forward towards this more pragmatic policy that might one day lead us out of the deadly spiral of threats, violence and war.