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U.S., World Powers, Reach Temporary Nuclear Deal With Iran

iran-nuclear-weapons

Just a few weeks ago, it had seemed like we were on the verge of a temporary deal with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program. Secretary of State Kerry had traveled to Geneva, where talks had been going on for several weeks between the so-called “P-6” group of nations and the representatives of the Iranian government in the wake of the election of Iran’s new President. For much of that weekend, it seemed like a deal was imminent notwithstanding the expected objections that were already coming from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu and, of course, conservatives in the United States, both of whom seem to reject the idea of any deal with Iran other than one that doesn’t involve Iran giving up everything in exchange for, well, nothing. Before the weekend was over, though, the deal had fallen apart over the specific details of the agreement and the perception among some involved in negotiations that Iran wasn’t giving up quite enough to justify granting even a minor amount of relief from financial sanctions. So, Secretary Kerry and the Foreign Ministers who had arrived in anticipation of a final went home, leaving their deputies behind to try to resurrect a deal.

As it turned out, it didn’t take long for that to happen. Secretary Kerry and the rest of the Foreign Ministers were back in Geneva late last week and, last night, word came down that the parties had reached agreement on a temporary deal that would purportedly put a halt to Iranian uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of a small portion of the sanctions that Western nations had imposed on the Islamic Republic:

GENEVA — The United States and five other world powers announced a landmark accord Sunday morning that would temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program and lay the foundation for a more sweeping agreement.

It was the first time in nearly a decade, American officials said, that an international agreement had been reached to halt much of Iran’s nuclear program and roll some elements of it back.

The aim of the accord, which is to last six months, is to give international negotiators time to pursue a more comprehensive pact that would ratchet back much of Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it could be used only for peaceful purposes.

Shortly after the agreement was signed at 3 a.m. in the Palace of Nations in Geneva, President Obama, speaking from the State Dining Room in the White House, hailed it as the most “significant and tangible” progress of a diplomatic campaign that began when he took office.

“Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure,” he said, “a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.”

In Geneva, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said he hoped the agreement would lead to a “restoration” of trust between Iran and the United States. Smiling and avuncular, he reiterated Iran’s longstanding assertion that its nuclear program was peaceful, adding that the Iranian people deserved respect from the West.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who flew to Geneva early Saturday for the second time in two weeks in an effort to complete the deal, said it would “require Iran to prove the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.”

Iran, which has long resisted international monitoring efforts and built clandestine nuclear facilities, agreed to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent, a level that would be sufficient for energy production but that would require further enrichment for bomb-making. To make good on that pledge, Iran will dismantle links between networks of centrifuges.

Its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a short hop from weapons-grade fuel, would be diluted or converted into oxide so that it could not be readily used for military purposes. Iran agreed that it would not install any new centrifuges, start up any that are not already operating or build new enrichment facilities.

The agreement, however, does not require Iran to stop enriching uranium to a low level of 3.5 percent, or to dismantle any of its existing centrifuges.

The accord was a disappointment for Israel, which had urged the United States to pursue a stronger agreement that would lead to a complete end to Iran’s enrichment program. But Iran made it clear that continuing enrichment was a prerequisite for any agreement.

The United States did not accept Iran’s claim that it had a “right to enrich” under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. But American officials signaled last week that they were open to a compromise in which the two sides would essentially agree to disagree on how the proliferation treaty should be interpreted, while Tehran continued to enrich.

In return for the initial agreement, the United States agreed to provide $6 billion to $7 billion in sanctions relief. Of this, roughly $4.2 billion would be oil revenue that has been frozen in foreign banks.

This limited sanctions relief can be accomplished by executive order, allowing the Obama administration to make the deal without having to appeal to Congress, where there is strong criticism of any agreement that does not fully dismantle Iran’s nuclear program.

Given that the details of this deal only started leaking out around 9:00pm Eastern last night, and that President Obama didn’t address the nation about it until around 10:30 last night, there hasn’t been very much time for detailed reaction to the plan, but, so far at least, the reactions that have come out are about  what you’d expect. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, predictably, denounced the deal, asserting that it would “make the world a more dangerous place.” Here  in the United States, the initial response from Republicans on Capitol Hill seems fairly negative, and one Republican, Senator John Cornyn, even suggested in a late night Tweet that this deal was somehow intended to be a distraction from the political problems the Administration was facing vis a vis the Affordable Care Act.  I’m sure we’ll hear more from the critics of Obama’s Iran policy later today and as the week goes on, but it strikes me that there are several things worth keeping in mind here as we attempt to judge this agreement while the ink is still drying.

First of all, this is, as the President made clear last night, a temporary deal that is intended to last only six months while the parties attempt to reach a longer-term deal that would lead to a permanent end to Iranian enrichment of uranium beyond the 3.5%-5% level needed for a nuclear energy program, and to place that program under a much broader system of international monitoring that would ensure that they aren’t trying to develop nuclear weapons while telling the world they are engaging in research and development of an energy program, activities which are permitted on the relevant nuclear non-proliferation treaties. As we sit here today, of course, we can’t tell whether those longer term negotiations will succeed, or even whether Iran will comply with the agreements that were reached yesterday in Geneva. However, at least on paper, what we have is a deal in which Iran is agreeing to freeze significant parts of its nuclear program and, in exchange, the West has agreed to suspend relatively small portions of the financial sanctions that have been placed on Iran while also gaining the right to gain access to Iran’s nuclear research sites to ensure that the Iranians are indeed complying with their obligations under the new agreement. While skepticism is always warranted in these situations, this seems like a good first step toward the goal of a longer term deal that leads to more permanent action by Iran and, potentially, better relations between Iran and the rest of the world.

Second, the suggestion from Prime Minister Netenyahu that this deal makes the world more dangerous seems to me to be little more than overblown rhetoric. If nothing else, getting Iran to temporarily agree to hold back on further enrichment about 5% and dismantle its network of centrifuges means that this march toward a nuclear weapon that he and his supporters in Israel and the United States claim Iran has been on for the past decade or so means that we’ve at least slowed that progress down just a little bit. Furthermore, the Iranians have claimed all along that their nuclear program has nothing to do with weaponizing and everything to do with research and energy program. With this deal, we’ve actually obtained the means by which to test that assertion. If the Iranians are being honest with that assertion, then we can expect them to both comply with what they’ve agreed to in Geneva and to continue negotiating toward a long-term deal that allows them to continue pursuing those two legitimate goals while simultaneously ensuring that the means of enforcing compliance, international sanctions, largely remain in place and subject to further tightening should they not comply with the Geneva agreement or not negotiate in good faith. Contrary to Nentanyahu’s fear-mongering, I’d argue that this is a good step in the right direction. Whether it gets us to the goal that both the U.S. and its European partners, and the Israelis agree upon vis a vis Iran’s nuclear program is what future negotiations are all about.

Third, I would suggest that this agreement, even though it is only temporary, provides some pretty stark evidence that the sanctions against Iran that were designed to bring it to the negotiating table have actually worked. For the past several years, the United States has worked hard to get other Western nations to agree to enforcement of financial sanctions that made it next to impossible for the Iranians to gain access to billions of dollars in oil revenues and other assets sitting in foreign banks, mostly in Europe. The impact of this at home has, according to all reports, been quite severe. The value of Iran’s currency has plummeted in recent years, which has led to massive price increases for the basics of life for the average Iranian, and the inability to access foreign currency reserves has reportedly hit the Iranian military and Revolutionary Guard quite hard. The deal reached in Geneva today relaxes a small portion of those sanctions and will result in some ~$7 Billion being released to them, which is actually a fairly small portion of the Iranian cash being held in various banks around the world, and those sanctions will only be lifted for a short period of time. If Iran wants access to the rest of the money, they’re going to have to agree to a longer term deal. If they fail to comply or negotiate in good faith, the sanctions that were lifted will be reimposed. Clearly, the sanctions were hurting Iran enough to cause them to make the agreement they did, which suggests to me that they have some strong financial incentives to agree to a longer term deal.

Finally, as the critics start to come out of the woodwork, I think that they are obligated to answer a very critical question. Namely, if they are objecting to this deal, then what, exactly, is their alternative? So far this morning, I’m seeing people on the right saying that the only acceptable alternative is for Iran to immediately and completely dismantle its entire nuclear program, or at least its centrifuges. One problem with that attitude, of course, is that this misses entirely the point of what the Geneva negotiations were all about. The parties were quite obviously aiming for a temporary deal that would allow both sides to save face while also engaging in good faith demonstrations that would show that they are indeed willing to take some of the steps that would be necessary to reach a final deal. Given the fact that negotiations between the West and Iran had basically been moribund for much of the time that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad served as President of Iran, that seems to me to be a good first step forward. The other problem with this all-or-nothing position, of course, is that it is a pretty unrealistic view of how diplomacy works. As with all other negotiations, it’s rare that one side gets everything they want, at least not without having to give something up in return.

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about this deal, and about whether the Iranians will both comply with its terms and negotiate in good faith toward a longer term agreement. However, at first glance this seems to me to be a good step in the right direction, and a far better alternative than the idea that the only way to deal with Iran is to become more and more bellicose to the point where military action would seem to be our only option. As Winston Churchill once said, “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.” So, while it’s far too early to say that we’ve averted an eventual path toward war, there at least seems to be some hope that we have. Since this is only a temporary deal, why not at least give diplomacy a chance?

Update: Jazz Shaw has this response to my final point:

There’s nothing wrong with continuing to talk to Iran regarding their nuclear program. In fact, for all Western nations it’s pretty much a requirement, as we are honor bound to seek a diplomatic resolution to problems before resorting to a military one. But when signing off on “deals” we need to at least show some concrete progress. There is nothing here which can’t be reversed in the blink of an eye in terms of what Iran is “giving up” while there will be no taking back the economic – and public relations – windfall the Iranians will reap from it. I’m not sure if the world is any more dangerous as a result of this, as both Pipes and Netanyahu infer, but it’s certainly difficult to see how it’s any less dangerous, either. Iran has great cause to celebrate from this one, but I don’t see why anyone else should be doing any dancing. If there was any victory for the West here, it was just a chance for John Kerry to put a feather in his cap for being involved in getting a relatively toothless piece of paper signed.

I don’t dispute that what Iran has given up here could be easily reversed, but then again that’s true of what we’ve given up in the form of a relatively small part of the financial sanctions against Iran that have been lifted. As I noted, if the Iran wants access to the tens of billions of hard currency currently frozen in banks around the world, it’s going to have to demonstrate something far more than what it has today. However, I think it’s important to emphasize again that this is a temporary deal, one that is meant as much to create the groundwork for the good faith necessary for a longer term deal as it is anything else. As such, I’m not sure it’s fair to criticize it using criteria that would be better applied to a final deal, which this most certainly is not. If it turns out this temporary deal reveals that Iran cannot be trusted to live up to even what it has agreed to here, then we will have to proceed accordingly. If, however, they demonstrate that they can be trusted, then that strikes me as an important step forward. As President Reagan said regarding nuclear negotiations with the Soviet Union, it’s time for a little “trust, but verify.”

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    It looks like quite a good deal. We get essentially what we want, or at least what we have any rational basis to demand, and we give up almost nothing in exchange.

    Good for the negotiating team, good for Mr. Kerry, and good for Mr. Obama who may now have earned his Nobel.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 3

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, predictably, denounced the deal, asserting that it would “make the world a more dangerous place.”

    The only thing that would satisfy Netenyahu is turning Persia into a sea of radioactive glass.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Our right-wing friends have to wait a bit until Fox and talk radio tell them just what to think about this. Netanyahu’s started, but the talking points will be coming shortly.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    Well Daniel Pipes at NROs The Corner has weighed in:
    A Foreign-Policy Disaster

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. C. Clavin says:

    Secret negotiations for a year.
    Freezes the program…which has been growing while Hawks have been waiting for some imaginary complete capitulation.
    Bill Kristol…with the blood of Iraq on his hands…calls it a terrible deal. So it must be a pretty good deal.
    Netanyahoo proves Israel is a rogue Nation.
    China and Russia are onboard.
    Doesn’t require a website.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  6. Woody says:

    War is both horribly expensive (for civilians and soldiers) and horribly profitable (for defense contractors* and political demagogues).

    Considering where we’ve been, the deal seems like a very positive development in international relations. Yes, there is peril here (Israel and the Kingdom for starters), but the “temporary” aspect allows for a lot of room to maneuver.

    The Cornyn tweet was a mistake, I think – he meant, of course, that this is a distraction from BENGHAZI!!

    *For the life of me, I cannot fathom an ideological opposition to a Truman Commission requirement during warfare.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @Ron Beasley:
    The inevitable Neville Chamberlain comparison.
    They really are predictable, aren’t they?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    It seems to me that one’s view of the agreement depends on the assumptions you make. If you believe that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons and even if it did, is not a threat to the U. S. or U. S. interests, it’s a good deal. If you believe that the accord is a first step in ending an Iranian nuclear weapon’s development in progress, it’s a good deal.

    If, on the other hand, you believe that the accord results in an easily reversible (or non-existent) reduction in Iran’s progress towards nuclear weapons in exchange for a step towards lifting the sanctions against Iran which will not be reversible, it’s a very bad deal indeed.

    My own view is that we’ve been using the wrong approach towards Iran for some time. We should have been using conventional deterrence but, sadly, the United States appears to have lost faith in that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Yes, because Iran – with a GDP lower than Illinois – is the equivalent of 1939 -era Germany with a rapidly-growing military and huge industrial capability.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    If, on the other hand, you believe that the accord results in an easily reversible (or non-existent) reduction in Iran’s progress towards nuclear weapons in exchange for a step towards lifting the sanctions against Iran which will not be reversible, it’s a very bad deal indeed.

    Actually, I don’t even think that’s true. We’re giving them pocket change, their own money, incidentally, and not dismantling sanctions or promising not to continue sanctions. And we’re getting intensive monitoring against 5% maximum enrichment. This is a pause as we await further negotiation.

    So we lose nothing in terms of deterrence. We spend nothing. We surrender no sanctions. And we get some promises and inspections as we move forward. And since France took the hard line we don’t even have our usual problem of ally-wrangling.

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  11. C. Clavin says:

    @Dave Schuler:
    Please explain what you mean by conventional deterrence?
    Israel is loaded with nukes. So I’m not clear on your intention…if that’s not deterrence?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    At the Weekly Standard our old friend John Bolton is spouting his particular brand of dangerous nonsense:
    Abject Surrender by the United States
    What does Israel do now?
    The reality is both the Israeli military and intelligence think a war with Iran would be really bad for Israel and that this deal is a good first step.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @Ron Beasley:
    All of those Neo-con warmongers, and the idiots who believe them, were proven to be idiots by their colossal blunder in Iraq…and now Obama is proving them wrong again.
    I think you can expect a full- on freak out from them…and their believers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  14. al-Ameda says:

    For conservatives, it’s hard to know what to think when it comes to the Middle East, but the rule seems to be “whatever Obama wants, whatever he did – we oppose that.”

    Iran? The conservative reaction to this temporary deal will be predictable – get ready for the inevitable Neville Chamberlain analogies. The fact is conservatives wanted no deal, they’re quite content to stand behind Netanyahu’s comments and wait for him to have Israeli forces strike.

    Syria? Conservatives are upset that Obama didn’t bomb Syria, however when he went to Congress to get authorization to take that action if necessary, they turned him down. Now, they’re are upset that Putin, and not Obama, was the deal broker in the case of Syria.

    I have no idea how this deal will turn out, however it seems to me that this approach had to be taken, and if it does not work then a much more hard line will probably result.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  15. Dave Schuler says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Conventional deterrence is the credible threat of destruction. As such it has both a material component and a psychological component. The psychological component has been systematically undermined over the period of the last forty some-odd years.

    Do the Iranians believe that the Israelis actually present a threat to them? I don’t see it in either the material or psychological component.

    As I’ve tried to imply, I think that Iran is only a threat to us if we allow them to be. The policy for the last thirty years, a combination of toothless saber-rattling and sanctions, rather obviously doesn’t work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  16. C. Clavin says:

    @Dave Schuler:
    Well… OK.
    A couple thoughts. The traditional concept of deterrence actually depends on some level of equality…and thus retaliation. So I’m not convinced the conditions for deterrence exist.
    And I think this signals a sea change over the past 3-4 decades. Today’s news represents a full year of negotiations. Diplomacy. As opposed to Fantasy…that tough talk and ignoring Iran was going to bring them to their knees. I would say that Kristol and Bolton represent the past…and their reaction proves it. Will this new tack work? We’ll see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  17. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Hopeful progress v. The status quo, which was a consistently worsening condition.
    Clear choice to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  18. walt moffett says:

    Would like to read the actual text of the agreement, instead of press releases before commenting. Otherwise, looks like good work by Ashton and Sultan Qaboos in keeping everyone talking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Dave Schuler says:

    @C. Clavin:

    The main reason that the conditions for deterrence don’t exist today is that nobody believes what we say.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    The policy for the last thirty years, a combination of toothless saber-rattling and sanctions, rather obviously doesn’t work.

    If this deal stands, and progresses to the next stage, then obviously sanctions are working.

    The Iranians have now stated (re-stated) in this deal that they will never develop a nuclear weapon. If we can actually keep them within the non-proliferation regime, carefully monitored, then threats of deterrence will be beside the point. And the Secretary of State you dismissed as “an idiot” will have a very major accomplishment.

    This is a win. At least for now. And it happened because of exactly the combination of sanctions and saber-rattling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    No one believes what we say? Based on what?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  22. JohnMcC says:

    To the historcally-minded (at least to THIS historically-minded), the ME can be seen as the theater of a 3,000 year conflict involving Arabs vs Persians (with side-shows involving Kurds, Armenians, Jews and Europeans such as the Crusaders and the Israelis..with the later insertion to the Turks and Mongols — just to account for the whole cast of characters). Thus it has hardly been noted that the Saudis and the Israelis have essentially the same position which involves trying to coerce the US to put the Persians at bay. There is no serious advantage to the US in doing this so their threats grow more extreme as the possiblity of an Iranian settlement grows closer.

    It doesn’t need to be stated, I hope, that keeping the ME non-nuclear is a goal lost decades ago; the Israelis’ began warhead production in 1967 according to Dr Wikipedia. Our real goal is keeping the Saudi/Iranian duality from becoming a nuclear confrontation like the Indian/Pakistani confrontation is now.

    This agreement seems like a reasonable and hopeful first step.

    The risk is that a future Repub administration will mingle the two catastrophes of the GWBush team’s and allow Iran to become a nuke-possessing (not ‘threshold’) power a la North Korea with the stupidity of the two Gulf Wars (’91 and ’03). The possibility of that disaster can be seen lurking behind the propaganda in Mr Kristols and Dr Pipes’ articles cited above.

    Republicans delenda est!

    As to Mr Shuler’s remarks about ‘conventional deterrence’, I feel sure that to an Iranian who has seen two air wars on Baghdad and two complete destructions of the Iraqi army, the potential destruction of Iran’s military and civilian infrastructure is easily imagined. I bet they know exactly how it would feel to have our NeoCon friends in Washington turned loose to play in their native land (and airspace). Any unnecessary sword-waving in their direction would appear either as pointless bluster or Nixon-style ‘crazy-man’ negotiations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  23. Ron Beasley says:

    @JohnMcC: I really have to wonder if the Iranians would have started their nuclear program at all if not for the Bush/Cheney – neocon saber rattling shortly after 911.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  24. JohnMcC says:

    One more thing worth mentioning: That the record of economic sanctions actually succeeding is amazingly slim. They’re obviously completely ineffective in regard to Cuba or North Korea or Saddam’s Iraq.
    .
    We should be happy at this success because a way of bringing non-military force in accord with international law against a ‘rogue’ state is desperately needed if our civilization is to have a long life on this blood-soaked little planet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. JohnMcC says:

    @Ron Beasley: Completely agreed, sir! The paragraph concerning that was deleted from my already-too-wordy comment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  26. Todd says:

    I feel like the whole middle east situation is just too complicated for me to ever have a truly informed opinion on the subject.

    But I will say, that during the times I was in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of the thoughts that scared me the most was “I sure hope the Israelis don’t get the go-ahead to bomb Iran while I’m over here … this close to the place”

    Even now that I’m (very recently) retired, and therefore have no real possibility of being over in that area of the world again, I still find the thought of war with Iran to be much more disturbing than the thought of Iran with a nuclear weapon.

    Hell, truth be told, I find the Israelis to be a much greater threat to world peace than the Iranians. And if this deal helps to keep them from being able to launch a “preemptive” military strike, then it’s a good deal in my book, no matter how you parse the details.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  27. C. Clavin says:

    @Dave Schuler:
    I think the world is beginning to believe us now. Iran May be a symptom.
    Libya, Syria, OBL, surprisingly frank language re:Netanyahu’s settlements…if they don’t believe us now it’s not because we haven’t done what we said.
    Many of us at the time thought that Syria could open the door to a deal like this.
    Again… First step…a year in the making.
    Big ships turn slowly.
    We’ll see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  28. george says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    My own view is that we’ve been using the wrong approach towards Iran for some time. We should have been using conventional deterrence but, sadly, the United States appears to have lost faith in that.

    I think its pretty much a given that Iran (or just about any reasonably developed country) can develop nuclear weapons give time and moderate resources – the technology is 70 years old, the science and engineering are well understood. Playing for time is all we or anyone has.

    So, what exactly are you suggesting? Invade? Drop bombs on it? Our credibility from threats is pretty low after starting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which accomplished almost nothing other than severely hurting our economy and reducing our will to fight overseas – which means just making threats was never going to work anyway.

    And if we invade, how many decades do we have to stay in force to make sure that they don’t just start up again (see 70 year old technology above). If we drop bombs (enough to reduce their civilization to rubble, since doing less than that will just make them angry), do you think other countries are going to look at that and say “wow, we better not make bombs”? I suspect they’re all going to rush to make bombs as fast as possible, because they’re going to see us as insane and will want some sort of deterent.

    Ironically, I think if we hadn’t gone into Iraq and Afghanistan threats would be taken much more seriously. Now we’re spent, financially and emotionally, and everyone knows it. Playing for time is the best we have.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  29. Stonetools says:

    Good hopeful first step. I think the new regime in Iran genuinely wants to do a deal so the Obama Administration is right to engage them. Hopefully the Republican morons in Congress won’t screw things up with their new sanctions. Right now we need carrots and not sticks.
    If Obama negotiates a final nuclear deal with Iran he will have earned that Nobel.
    What a difference 48 hours makes, eh? Two days ago the pundits were ( again!) talking about the end of the Obama presidency. Now there has been filibuster reform, news of a surge in Obamacare enrollment, and now a nuclear deal with Iran. Obama is luckier than a dog with two d!cks! Or maybe just more skillful than we know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  30. Ron Beasley says:

    @Stonetools:

    Hopefully the Republican morons in Congress won’t screw things up with their new sanctions.

    I think it would politically risky for them to do that but I’m not sure most of them are smart enough to know that. The American people want this to succeed and don’t want another war in the ME. The problem is this would be a feather in Obama’s hat and the thing they don’t want most is for Obama to have any successes..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  31. DC Loser says:

    Anything that pisses off Bibi is great in my book. Next is to reopen and normalize diplomatic relations with Tehran.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  32. Todd says:

    @george:

    Ironically, I think if we hadn’t gone into Iraq and Afghanistan threats would be taken much more seriously. Now we’re spent, financially and emotionally, and everyone knows it. Playing for time is the best we have.

    Teddy Roosevelt advised: “speak softly and carry a big stick”

    Instead, we had President “bring it on” Bush and SecDef “go to war with the Army you have, not the one you want” Rumsfeld.

    After Iraq, our “big stick” just isn’t quite as potentially ominous to (many of) our adversaries as it used to be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  33. anjin-san says:

    No one believes what we say? Based on what?

    Hot babes in short skirts on Fox say so?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  34. anjin-san says:

    The right wing chatter I am seeing is that the Iran deal was cooked up by the Obama administration “to distract from Obamacare”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  35. jib10 says:

    @Dave Schuler: Are you talking about the “Axis of Evil” talk? It is true that standing by and watching North Korea get the bomb after all that bluster was a huge failure for the US (Thanks W!). But we have moved on from that and replaced everyone involved with that fiasco.

    The fact is an atomic Iran is not much of a threat to the US. (And we are talking atomic bombs, not nuclear, the difference matters, a lot). It is certainly less a threat than an atomic Pakistan, an unstable govt with rebels in country that have actually attacked and killed US citizens on US soil. And it is way less a threat than an atomic North Korea which can actually use their atomic bombs to hit US troops as well as major US allies South Korea and Japan. Not to mention the decades long threat of massively nuclear Russia and China.

    We certainly dont want Iran with atomic bombs but if and when they get atomic weapons, we really dont want another North Korea. It there is a chance of an Iran getting the bomb, and even with this deal, the long term chance is still very real, then it is time to bring Iran in from the cold. That is what we have just did.

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  36. Ron Beasley says:

    @anjin-san: Well that is what it did, nobody is talking about Obamacare today. But this is so absurd that I can’t believe a majority of Americans will but it.

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  37. Ron Beasley says:

    @jib10: I think there is a big difference between Iran and North Korea. The government of North Korea truly is irrational and insane – the government of Iran is not. If I had a choice I would much prefer that Iran have nukes than Pakistan which is always just a hair away from being taken over by real crazies.

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  38. C. Clavin says:

    @anjin-san:

    Yeah…Obama started negotiating a year ago because he knew they would mess up a website.
    Hmmm…wouldn’t it have been easier to just get the website right???

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  39. Stonetools says:

    @anjin-san:

    Indeed both the no 2 Republican in the Senate and the no3 guy in House tweeted as much. Talk about self-centeredness!

    If in a week or so, there are good reports about the Obamacare website, I expect both to say:
    “That’s interesting but what we should be discussing is the Administration cave in last week against Iran and the threat to Israel. Or maybe BENGHAZI!”

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  40. C. Clavin says:

    I think the next few weeks there will be much hand wringing over Israel.
    But the political chattering class is out of sync with the American public on that.
    We are just that much safer today…and safer is freer.
    That’s what matters to Americans . And polls show they are in favor of a deal like this.

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  41. Ron Beasley says:

    @C. Clavin: I think this is right. AIPAC may still have some clout in the congress but the majority of Americans are opposed to Israel’s agenda and that is slowly working it’s way up to congress. Israel knows this and they are concerned.

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  42. michael reynolds says:

    @JohnMcC:

    If not a 3000 year conflict it’s at least as old as the Sunni-Shia split 700 odd years ago. This fight actually predates the discovery of America by Europeans. So why we should want a piece of this is baffling to me. It’s as if we were invited to pop around to Germany (proto-germanies, but you know what I mean) around 1400 or so to pick a side between Catholics and Protestants. I think that’s got to be a big N-O.

    Our interest is stability, not the ascendancy of Sunni Islam over Shia Islam. American interests are in a strong but not too strong Iran, a strong but not too strong Saudi Arabia, and an Israel that doesn’t embarrass us any more than strictly necessary. To paraphrase Ringo Starr, “Peace and oil, peace and oil.”

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  43. Ron Beasley says:
  44. michael reynolds says:

    @anjin-san:

    The right wing chatter I am seeing is that the Iran deal was cooked up by the Obama administration “to distract from Obamacare”

    That’s the default for people like Jenos as they wait for Limbaugh to tell them what they think.

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  45. anjin-san says:

    Well, to be fair to Jenos, he also lets Michelle Malkin & Jim Treacher tell him what he thinks. He’s a three dog bitch…

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  46. steve says:

    1) We have more than adequately demonstrated our willingness and ability to conquer any Middle East country, except for ISrael. Our threats have a lot of credibility. They are so credible that it is clear the only way to not be invaded is to have nukes. (See Pakistan.)

    2) Iran is now a permanent nuclear threshold country, much like Japan. Knowing that the US can and will invade countries for no apparent reason (see Iraq) why would they give this up?

    3) What would we gain from making them give this up if we could? Nukes are not an offensive weapon. If we dont intend to invade Iran, what is the point?

    Steve

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  47. C. Clavin says:

    John Kerry talking sense…
    “…you can’t always start where you want to wind up…”

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  48. Tyrell says:

    We should have also insisted on a good supply of those flying carpets and magic lanterns.

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  49. Winston Churchill says:

    Oh! While you’re quoting Churchill – here he is from the grave to rebut it. –

    “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries!
    Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia
    in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many
    countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods
    of commerce and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the
    Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and
    refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan
    law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as
    a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the
    faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.”

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  50. Ron Beasley says:

    @Winston Churchill: What he doesn’t mention is that attitude is straight from the Old Testament and a view shared by more that a few Christians and ultra orthodox Jews.

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  51. Tyrell says:

    @michael reynolds: Secretary Kerry was too soft; he should have demanded a reduction in their stockpile – of camels.

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  52. michael reynolds says:

    This has been an interesting comment thread for a couple of reasons. But first I want to say that Doug wrote an excellent analysis, and I don’t think people give him the respect and props he’s due some times.

    It’s an interesting thread because the usual suspects, the reflexive Obama-haters, never showed up. They have nothing to say. They don’t know what to say because Rush Limbaugh and Shawn Hannity haven’t yet formulated the party line.

    It’s also interesting because even Dave Schuler, normally the most thoughtful of bloggers, I don’t think had anything of substance to offer.

    Interesting in that the spectrum from the Usual Suspects to Schuler pretty much covers both ends of the bell curve and no one had much of a counterpoint to the P5+1 deal.

    In the wider world we saw the AIPAC water-carriers make the usual toadying-for-campaign-cash noises, and we heard from the war-mongering buffoons like Bolton, but none of them really laid a glove on the deal, either. In short the skeptics for their part and the haters for theirs had nothing. Zip. I’ve heard and read nothing of substance from critics.

    This is looking like a pretty good deal. It’s looking like it could grow into something genuinely great.

    So let’s review Mr. Obama’s foreign and defense policy regarding the middle east, hitting the high points. We are out of Iraq. We are reducing forces in Afghanistan, shifting to a simpler anti-terror mission. American casualties have dropped dramatically, as has the cost to the taxpayer. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda’s leadership has been slaughtered from the sky. Muamar Qaddafi, an unpunished murderer of American civilians, is dead. Bashar Assad is still in power in part of his country but has kept his promise to begin destroying his chemical weapons. Israel is secure. And Iran is taking first steps toward complying with nuclear non-proliferation.

    The previous president had one middle east accomplishment, which was Libya’s agreement to shut down their nuclear program. This was a signal accomplishment. But it was more than outweighed by the bloody fiasco of Iraq and by the utter mismanagement of the Afghanistan war.

    To a large degree Mr. Obama has done on the foreign front just what he did domestically: attempt to clean up the godawful messes left behind by the previous president.

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  53. Ron Beasley says:

    @michael reynolds: Good revue Michael – thank you.

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  54. dazedandconfused says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Our right-wing friends have to wait a bit until Fox and talk radio tell them just what to think about this. Netanyahu’s started, but the talking points will be coming shortly.

    Fox is the key indicator of how Congress will react, and on “Fox News Sunday” they let a couple people speak in favor of this deal without ridiculing them. Furthermore, they were snarky towards George Will, who represented the neo-con view.

    Looks like Rupert and Roger are either tired of war themselves, or view this as too big a “lift”, even for them.

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  55. grumpy realist says:

    Just for historical reasons, I feel compelled to quote A.J.P. Taylor: “There must be something in the Mideast that drives men mad.”

    The Financial Times had a pretty good rundown this morning on the whole situation. Israel doesn’t seem to realize exactly how much they’re pissing off Europe with their attempts at sabotage. If Iran is really as dangerous as Israel claims, then Iran will try to get around the limitations and will show that they are, in fact, untrustworthy. If Iran however does comply with limitations and demonstrate good faith, it will be very hard for Israel to continue to have over-the-top fits about How Dangerous Iran Is and still have anyone listen to them.

    Basically, Iran has a very good chance of pulling the rug completely out from under the Israelis and making them decidedly personae non gratae in diplomatic circles. The intelligent people in Israel realize this, and really, really wish that Bibi would sit down and shut up–he isn’t selling Israel well at all to the outside world.

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