Sahat al-Firdaus is a public open space in Baghdad, Iraq. While the name probably does not ring familiar with many American, you will undoubtedly remember the videos of Saddam Hussein statues being pulled down there during the Iraqi War. The toppled statues have been replaced by giant portraits of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, increasing tension between Sunnis who oppose Iranian infiltration into Iraq and the Shiite Iraqis who see Khamenei as divine. Khamenei, the man who has the final say on all matters of state in the Islamic Republic, declared “I have no opposition” to a Tabriz crowd chanting “death to America.” Given Iran’s increasing power in Iraq, Khamenei’s boldness should come as no surprise.
It is under this most interesting backdrop that The United States and Iran are currently negotiating a nuclear deal. In the past Iran has defied the U.N. Security Council demands that it suspend uranium enrichment and other sensitive activities, continuing to work towards the goal of nuclear weaponization. While President Obama believes the new deal, which allows for yearly inspections, is suitable, many question the United States’ ability to detect progress in other countries. The U.S. intelligence community was caught off guard by the first Soviet nuclear test in 1949, the first Indian test in 1974, the first Pakistani test in 1998 and the first North Korean test in 2006.
The tensions between The United States and Iran are complicated by the two countries’ collaborative role in the embattled Iraqi territory. Khamenei and other Iranian officials have repeatedly made clear that reductions of its nuclear capacities would be unacceptable. Now Iran, with its role of the United States’ main ally in Iraq, has gained a considerable about of leverage within this negotiation, not to mention within the Oil rich Iraqi territory. Nuclear negotiations are optimistically scheduled to end in july, with an option by both sides to extend the deadline an additional six months. The always complex relationship between America and Iran shows no sign of simplifying anytime soon.