Progress on the UN Security Council track has in the past few months been an important instrument to hold back Congress's own sanctions push. With Congress eager to sanction Iran, particularly now when the Brazilian-Turkish deal conceivably could derail or delay the UN sanctions track, the Obama administration feels the need to pacify the Congressional sanctions track by accelerating the UN sanctions track.
Second, the Brazilian-Turkish deal explicitly recognizes Iran's right to enrichment and would, as a result, eliminate the option of pursuing the zero-enrichment objective. While most analysts agree that the zero-enrichment objective simply isn't feasible, the White House has kept its options open on this issue. It has neither publicly confirmed it as a goal, nor rejected it. This, it has been argued, would provide the US with leverage. Even if it no longer is America's red line, it can still be America's opening position in a negotiation, the argument reads.
Third, there is a sense in the Obama administration that after the events of last year, a nuclear deal with Iran could only be sold domestically if Iran is first punished through a new round of sanctions. Only after a new round of sanctions would there be receptivity in Washington for a nuclear agreement with Iran. Hence, any nuclear deal that comes before a new round of sanctions would complicate the Obama administration's domestic challenges. A deal without punishment – even a good deal – simply wouldn't be enough.
Understandably, Washington's reaction to the Brazilian-Turkish deal has created some apprehension in the international community. The Obama administration has worked diligently to overcome the credibility gap America developed with the international community under President George W. Bush. One element of this effort was to utilize diplomacy as a premier tool of US foreign policy.
Punitive measures such as war or sanctions would no longer be the instruments of first resort. But the reaction to the Brazilian-Turkish deal may undo some of the progress the Obama administration has achieved with the international community. Washington's lack of appreciation for the breakthrough may fuel suspicions of whether sanctions are pursued to achieve success in diplomacy, or whether diplomacy was pursued to pave the way for sanctions – and beyond.
Dr. Trita Parsi is the President of the National Iranian American Council and the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer award for Ideas improving World Order.