Editor's Note: Iran and the group of six major powers reached an agreement July 14 after a two-week extension and more than 20 months of negotiations. But the deal is really the culmination of more than a decade of careful diplomacy, at times carefully conducted behind the scenes, following the revelation of the Iranian nuclear program in 2002. In the coming months, the U.S. Congress, the Iranian Supreme Leader and the U.N. Security Council will have to review and approve the deal, which exchanges phased sanctions relief for guarantees and verification of Iran’s commitment to a peaceful nuclear program. Stratfor has long maintained that a nuclear deal between Iran and the United States was inevitable and that such an accord — though unnerving to many of Washington’s traditional partners in the Middle East — would form a cornerstone of the U.S. strategy of maintaining a balance of power in the region.
In light of this historic accord, Stratfor is publishing this chronology of analyses that foresaw this previously unthinkable event.
March 1, 2010: The United States apparently has reached the point where it must either accept that Iran will develop nuclear weapons at some point if it wishes, or take military action to prevent this. There is a third strategy, however: Washington can seek to redefine the Iranian question. As we have no idea what leaders on either side are thinking, exploring this represents an exercise in geopolitical theory. Let's begin with the two apparent stark choices.
Aug. 2, 2013: Diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington will improve after Iran's new president assumes office Aug. 4, ending months of speculation over whether Iran and Washington will find accommodation in their nuclear standoff. In fact, in recent weeks both sides have expressed interest in resuming bilateral nuclear talks. Those talks never took place simply because Iran never had to participate in them. Its economy was in decent shape despite the sanctions, its regional geopolitical position had been secure and its domestic political environment was in disarray. But now things are different. Tehran is devoting an unsustainable amount of resources to Syrian President Bashar al Assad in his fight against the Syrian rebellion. And while economic sanctions have not yet forced Iran to the negotiating table, Iranian leaders will likely choose to engage the United States voluntarily to forestall further economic decline. The inauguration of President-elect Hassan Rouhani provides an ideal opportunity for them to do so.
Nov. 25, 2013: What was unthinkable for many people over many years happened in the early hours of Nov. 24 in Geneva: The United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran struck a deal. After a decadelong struggle, the two reached an accord that seeks to ensure that Iran's nuclear program remains a civilian one. It is a preliminary deal, and both sides face months of work to batten down domestic opposition, build convincing mechanisms to assure compliance and unthread complicated global sanctions.
April 2, 2015: After double overtime negotiations in Lausanne, Iran and the six world powers announced a framework deal that largely covers the key sticking points of a nuclear agreement, leaving the technical details to be worked out over the next three months. Though there are several critical ambiguities in the joint statement, on the whole this statement is highly favorable to Iran. The careful wording was designed to enable Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to sell this deal at home and could help stave off U.S. congressional dissent in the months leading up to the June 30 deadline — though this deal will not depend on congressional approval for implementation.
April 2, 2015: The United States and Iran, along with other members of the Western negotiating coalition, reached an agreement whose end point will be Iran's monitored abandonment of any ambition to build nuclear weapons, coupled with the end of sanctions on Iran's economy. It is not a final agreement. That will take until at least June 30. There are also powerful forces in Iran and the United States that oppose the agreement and might undermine it. And, in the end, neither side is certain to live up the agreement. Nevertheless, there has been an agreement between the Great Satan and a charter member of the Axis of Evil, and that matters. But it matters less for what it says about Iran's nuclear program, or economic sanctions, than for how it affects the regional balance of power, a subject we wrote on in this week's Geopolitical Weekly.