Dennis Ross: Unfrozen Iranian Funds Will Shift Mideast Balance of Power Toward Tehran
One of the ramifications of finalizing the nuclear deal with Iran would be a shifting of the balance of Middle East power in Tehran’s favor, wrote longtime State Department negotiator Dennis Ross in Politico on Monday.
If negotiators emerge from their chambers in Vienna with a finalized deal — and right now the deadline has been postponed for the second time to July 10 — and sanctions are phased out according to Iranian compliance, then within six to 12 months Iran could receive up to $150 billion in frozen assets, wrote Ross.
And “even if it chose to use 90 percent of those funds to address real domestic needs, $15 billion could have a dramatic effect on Iran’s ability to use Hezbollah and other Shiite militias to pursue its ‘resistance’ agenda in the region and continue to shift the balance of power in its favor,” wrote Ross, who was a special adviser to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton on Iran.
Iranian-backed groups have been engaged in violent conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, eastern Saudi Arabia and the Gaza Strip.
Ross insisted that Iran had a lot to gain from signing a nuclear agreement with world powers, albeit one, Ross cautioned, that did not back away from the framework laid out in Lausanne, Switzerland in April.
“It is permitted to preserve its enrichment infrastructure and to have an industrial-size nuclear program at the end of the 15-year period for the agreement. It will be a nuclear threshold state at that point, effectively not having given up the nuclear weapons option but simply deferring it,” he wrote.
Ross said the deal basically amounted to lifting international sanctions on Iran, which have crippled the country’s economy, in exchange for full transparency, though Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared recently that inspectors would not have access to all of Iran’s military sites, even if the International Atomic Energy Agency had substantiated suspicions.