So an Iran deal has been negotiated. I know I’m supposed to have an immediate reaction to it, but then the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg had to go and tweet something sensible:

Fair enough. So instead, let’s go back to something I wrote when the framework agreement was reached more than three months ago that counted the ways that agreement could fall apart. I listed five possible pathways through which things could fall apart:

  1. Disagreement over the sanctions timetable.
  2. Each side sabotages the other with its domestic sales pitch.
  3. The regional situation melts down further.
  4. The Sunni Arab states remain unconvinced
  5. Scott Walker [or any other Republican hawk] is elected president

With an actual deal, what happens to these five pathways to a breakdown?

Well, the actual deal should eliminate any fuzziness about the sanctions-lifting timetable. So that’s one hurdle down.

The second pathway still exists but is much less potent now. To be sure, reading Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s announcement as New York Times correspondent Thomas Erdbrink tweeted it out, there were lots of statements that U.S. critics of the Iran deal will be happy to retweet:


These might not play well in the U.S. Congress. But as the New York Times’ David Sanger and Michael Gordon note, the contours of the congressional review mechanism means this pathway has also been weakened since the framework agreement was announced:

Although some provisions, including the arms embargo, are expected to be especially contentious in Congress, Mr. Obama’s chances of ultimately prevailing are considered high. Even if the accord is voted down by one or both houses, he could veto that action, and he is likely to have the votes he would need to prevail in an effort to override the veto.

The other three hurdles still exist, however, though in somewhat diluted form. The regional situation in the Middle East still looks dicey — though it’s interesting to note that Obama said explicitly that this deal would reduce the chances of another war in the region. The Sunni states, particularly Saudi Arabia, are still making noises and taking action to lay the groundwork for a nuclear response to Iran’s revanchist foreign policy. And, of course, a Republican hawk can still win the 2016 election.

So yes, the Iran deal can still fall apart, particularly if the Sunni Arab states go full bore for proliferation. But the odds of an agreement sticking now look much more robust than they did three months ago.