The eventual end of the arms embargo against Iran was an unpleasant surprise in the nuclear deal for many U.S. military officials and lawmakers, who say it could empower Tehran's theocratic regime to become more powerful and aggressive in the Middle East — even without nuclear weapons.
The international embargo is set to be lifted in five years, but it could be sooner if U.N. inspectors certify Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful before that. The possibility of an early embargo lift is one of the rewards for Tehran agreeing to put its nuclear weapons program on ice for a decade. Restrictions on ballistic missile technology will last a bit longer, ending in eight years.
But even supporters of the deal are concerned that lifting the restrictions on arms will make Iran stronger without any corresponding limits on its behavior, even to the point of being better able to threaten U.S. forces operating in the Persian Gulf.
"This is a painful trade-off, and I would have hoped that we could have defeated it completely," Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs in the George W. Bush administration, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 14, the day the agreement was reached in Vienna.