Missile defense against an Iranian threat is not a minor feature of NATO policy. It’s a baseline aspect of NATO’s view of alliance security. What happens to this policy feature, now that the JCPOA is here? There is little evidence that the alliance, or the Obama administration, has planned to deal with the question. But Russia will be pushing aggressively on it, and will stake her own policies on the argument than any continuation now of theater missile defense plans is directed exclusively, and prejudicially, at Russia.
It is easy enough to say – and the U.S. and NATO will say it at first – that signing the JCPOA doesn’t materially change how Iran figures in the core security assumptions of the West. But point by point, this claim will be assailable, and Russia is already preparing the assault.
European nations are preparing, in their turn, to establish more normal relations with Iran once the sanctions are lifted – a process that will not domesticate Iran but rather will involve the Europeans in the conflicts of the Middle East, in a return to the patterns of the pre-1939 era. China, India, and Japan will all get their licks in as well, along (of course) with Russia, which is already a major player there.
The Obama agreement with Iran is about much more than a bomb. Its effect will be to transform the Middle East irrevocably away from the era of U.S.-dominated stability. There is really nothing else that could so neatly hack all the legs off of the last 40 years of U.S. policy in the region. The world will not look the same a year from now.