The nuclear agreement is not what determines Iran’s regional standing. Iran is already a dominant state in the Middle East. It’s a large, resource-rich and potentially powerful partner in what can only be described as an unstable region. Its population is large: double the size of Saudi Arabia’s. But perhaps most importantly, both to those inside and outside the region, it has the capacity to pursue a serious international agenda.
For another interesting piece that details Iran’s work in Iraq, this New Yorker piece about Qassem Suleimani is worth a read.
Although the Iranians were severely strained by American sanctions, imposed to stop the regime from developing a nuclear weapon, they were unstinting in their efforts to save Assad. Among other things, they extended a seven-billion-dollar loan to shore up the Syrian economy. “I don’t think the Iranians are calculating this in terms of dollars,” a Middle Eastern security official told me. “They regard the loss of Assad as an existential threat.” For Suleimani, saving Assad seemed a matter of pride, especially if it meant distinguishing himself from the Americans. “Suleimani told us the Iranians would do whatever was necessary,” a former Iraqi leader told me. “He said, ‘We’re not like the Americans. We don’t abandon our friends.’ ”
Iran is the clear winner when it comes to any nuclear deal, even if the current likely deal is watered down further, the loss of face falls on the US side. I mean, the US has been backing the rebels who have been squarely routed by ISIS, whilst dissembling that Assad’s forces have any role to play in any return to some sort of temporary stability in the region.