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US-Iran Nuclear Deal Hinges On Syria Vote

If US President Barack Obama fails to win the congressional vote on the authorization to use force against Syria, Iran will conclude a nuclear deal is out of reach.
Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani speaks to the media after the International Conference on Nuclear Technology and Sustainable Development in Tehran March 5, 2005. Iran warned on Saturday it would return to making nuclear fuel and that the Middle East would get more unstable if the Islamic Republic was sent to the U.N. Security Council over its atomic programme. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi  MN/AT - RTR40GY

Many have pointed out that the Iranian government is watching closely what the Barack Obama administration does in Syria. With the president having declared a year ago that the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons “would be a game changer,” the Iranian government wonders what the new game will be. It does so not only out of interest in its clients in Syria, but more important, to judge what Obama’s reaction might be if Iran acquires a nuclear weapons capability, which the president has declared as another red line.

Focusing solely on events in Syria, however, misses a large part of the Iranian calculus, if not the largest. What really matters to Iran is how successful Obama is in winning congressional support for his Syria policy. If he fails, it will deal a double blow to the president. Not only will the Iranian government dismiss the possibility of negotiations with his administration, it will also conclude that Obama can be defied with impunity. The international cost of domestic political failure would be profound.

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