One of the great foreign achievements of the Obama administration lies in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a massive deal between the United Nations Security Council, the European Union, and Iran. The deal allows the wide variety of sanctions on Iran to be lifted should Iran meet a number of requirements related to the restriction of nuclear weapons development within Iranian borders. On the United States’ end of the deal, Secretary of State John Kerry has been spearheading the diplomatic negotiations, speaking frequently with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif about the deal and relations between the two nations.
The formation of this nuclear deal has taken over two years, and it is already reaping benefits for the United States even though Iran has yet to hold up their end of the deal. In early January 2016, 10 U.S. Navy sailors were detained by Iran for 16 hours when they were found in Iranian waters. The situation was resolved quickly, largly because of the trust built between Kerry and Zarif.
However, this deal has opened the door to complications in broader Middle East negotiations. The United States has allowed Iran to join them in organizing a cease-fire between the Syrian government and rebels in the country, creating tension with long time U.S. ally, Israel, as well as American Republicans. To further complicate matters, developing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of which support opposing sides in the Syrian Civil War, is causing U.S. foreign diplomats to scratch their heads.
Their greatest bet is in the strong Kerry-Zarif relationship. With the success of the JCPOA on the line, as well as a potentially huge step towards peace in Syria, the stakes have never been higher.