If diplomacy succeeds, he will take credit for it. If diplomacy fails as a result of American sabotage, he will claim vindication. His mistrust of the West will have proven correct, as will his line that Iran’s interest is best served by resisting rather than collaborating with the West. Iran’s moderates and pragmatists will once again be pushed to the margins of Iranian politics. Rouhani will be weakened and momentum will shift back to Khamenei and the hardliners.
Regionally, Obama will be further weakened, having first seen his attempt to bomb Syria thwarted by the American public and then his diplomacy sabotaged by his own party members in the Senate. Hardliners in Iran see a weakened Obama as beneficial to Iran.
If new sanctions later lead to war with Iran - which Khamenei may believe is inevitable - Iran’s Supreme Leader and his regime will be better positioned to survive the confrontation since international support for U.S. military action will be at a minimum.
Ironically, Khamenei finds himself in a surprising position. He doesn’t have to do anything. He only needs to patiently wait for Senators Kirk and Menendez to make him a winner by recklessly pushing for sanctions and making America - not Iran - the problem.
If diplomacy is permitted to succeed, however, Khamenei may benefit in the short run, but in the long run, it will present him with one of his greatest challenges thus far: the unleashing of Iran’s forces of moderation.
Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council, and author of “A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.