Three years before Tuesday’s nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration dispatched a pair of senior military commanders to the Middle East for a different, if equally urgent, set of negotiations. The purpose: persuading Israel to delay an imminent military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

At the time, the chances for military action were considered so high that U.S. officials debated when, not whether, the bombs would fall. “We’ve admitted to each other that our clocks are turning at different rates,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said after his talks with Israeli leaders in August 2012.

Now, White House officials are instead toasting a major diplomatic victory: a comprehensive agreement to severely restrict Iran’s nuclear program. In a remarkable reversal, the goal of freezing Iran’s progress toward a weapons capability was achieved not with warplanes but with handshakes.

The deal announced in Vienna closes, at least for now, the most perilous chapter in 35 years of turbulent relations with the Islamic republic. By effectively freezing Iran’s uranium stockpile for at least a decade, the accord eases tensions around a controversy that has given rise to cyberattacks, assassinations and economic sanctions, all set against a backdrop of fear over the potential for a new Middle East war.

Source: Washington Post

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