"It's a big bet that this regime after a nuclear deal is going to change its behavior and I disagree fundamentally that it will," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation of Defense of Democracies.
He and other critics believe the Obama administration has conceded too much and that the deal will leave Iran with enough nuclear capability to develop a weapon.
A nuclear-armed Iran would have disastrous consequences for the U.S. It would enflame crises in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq — where Iranian-backed groups are involved in fighting — and it could spark Iran's Sunni rivals, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to develop nuclear weapons of their own as a deterrent.
Such a scenario would add ammunition to those who argue Obama misplayed the Arab Spring, chiefly by failing to act more forcefully in Syria's civil war.
"If there is no deal, it may be better for the president's legacy than if there is a deal at this point," Dubowitz said.
It could be years until a potential deal can truly be judged.
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