This article was published in collaboration with The National Interest.
In the midst of crises in Ukraine and Gaza, an important moment in ongoing nuclear talks between Iran, the United States and its international partners passed with little notice—a four-month extension of the negotiations. The failure to reach a deal was not unexpected, considering the complexity of issues that the two sides need to resolve—in particular how much uranium-enrichment capacity Iran will be allowed to maintain.
But below the surface of these talks, is an issue perhaps even more consequential and certainly interrelated: what would a nuclear deal mean for Iran’s relationship with the West and in particular, the United States? This question—and the prospect that the answer may be a thawing of relations—has, ironically, brought hardliners in Iran and Israel together in common purpose. It could wind up either derailing an agreement or narrowing its ultimate impact.
For Iranian hardliners (and this includes the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) rapprochement with the West is akin to an existential threat—not to the nation of Iran, but to the ruling regime. Antagonism and ideological hostility toward the West and in particular, the United States, is one of the core values of the Islamic state.