Iran Nuclear Deal Struck, Reactions Pretty Much What You’d Expect

Depending on who you listen to, it's either peace in our time or an epic catastrophe.

Iran Nukes

The long-awaited nuclear deal with Iran was struck in the early morning hours Washington time and President Obama and President Rouhani gave dueling speeches about it at 7 Eastern. Depending on who you listen to, it’s either peace in our time or an epic catastrophe.

BBC (“Iran nuclear talks: ‘Historic’ agreement struck“):

World powers have reached a deal with Iran on limiting Iranian nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions.

US President Barack Obama said that with the deal, “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off” for Iran.

His Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, said it opened a “new chapter” in Iran’s relations with the world.

The deal reportedly gives UN nuclear inspectors extensive but not automatic access to sites within Iran.

Negotiations between Iran and six world powers – the US, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany – began in 2006.

The so-called P5+1 want Iran to scale back its sensitive nuclear activities to ensure that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.

Iran, which wants crippling international sanctions lifted, has always insisted that its nuclear work is peaceful.

Mr Obama said that the deal “makes the world safer and more secure”, and that it provides for a rigorous verification regime. “This deal is not built on trust – it is built on verification,” he said.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the deal was “a sign of hope for the entire world”.

“It is a decision that can open the way to a new chapter in international relations,” she said, ahead of a final meeting between negotiators in Vienna.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the deal was “not perfect for anybody”, but that it was the “best achievement possible that could be reached”.

Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, tweeted: “With this unnecessary crisis resolved, new horizons emerge with a focus on shared challenges.”

The text of the deal is yet to be officially released but these are some of the details it is believed to contain:

  • A compromise over the inspection of sites within Iran, the Associated Press quotes a diplomat as saying – UN inspectors would be allowed to monitor military sites but Iran could challenge requests for access
  • Iran has accepted that sanctions could be restored in 65 days if it violates the deal, Reuters cited diplomats as saying
  • A UN arms embargo and missile sanctions would remain in place for five and eight years respectively, Reuters reports
  • Sanctions in areas including oil and gas trading, financial transactions, aviation and shipping will be lifted and billions of dollars of Iranian assets unfrozen, Iranian media report

The text is here, actually, but I haven’t had time to digest it. The reaction on Twitter from the foreign policy experts I follow is, as with everything else, heavily divided by ideology.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a longshot contender for the Republican nomination with real expertise on foreign affairs issues, was typical of the critics, calling the deal “akin to declaring war on Israel and the Sunni Arabs” and “far worse than I ever dreamed it could be and will be a nightmare for the region, our national security and eventually the world at large.” Even granting that hyperbole is the coin of the realm in a crowded presidential field, that’s both stupid and irresponsible. I’m not yet persuaded that the deal will actually delay the Iran nuclear program for the promises 10-15 years but it’s harder for Iran to get a nuke today than it was yesterday.

Graham added, ”Hillary Clinton’s reaction to this deal is the first real test of her ability to be president and her judgment,” and ”If she believes it’s a good idea to lift the arms embargo without first seeing a behavior change by the Iranians, then her judgment as commander in chief will be very much in question.” First off, Clinton was Secretary of State for four years; this isn’t her first foreign policy test. Second, the whole point of sanctions was to force the Iranians, who had all the leverage otherwise, to make a deal. Third, to the extent that immediate reaction to the deal is a test of fitness for the presidency, Graham has failed it. Indeed, because he’s a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee rather than a governor or other outsider, he should be held to a higher standard than most of the other candidates on these issues; he should know better.

Senator Tom Cotton, who emerged on the national stage with a publicity stunt directed at the Iranian leadership, observed that ”The fundamental point is the nature of Iran’s regime.” That’s probably true. But it wasn’t going to change at the negotiating table.

I’m insufficiently expert on either the logistics of fielding nuclear weapons or the subtleties of inspection regimes to have a strong opinion on how good the deal is. Certainly, we made a lot of concessions that would have been unacceptable—that President Obama and his chief diplomats said were unacceptable—not long ago. My instinct, however, is twofold. First, this is likely the best deal achievable given Iran’s leverage. Second, that the artificial timeline imposed by US domestic politics increased the pressure on our side to get a deal done now further increasing Iran’s leverage.

Beyond that, I’m frankly shocked that Iran doesn’t already have a nuclear weapon. They’ve been working hard for well over a decade to acquire 1940s technology that countries with far less wealth and human capital, notably including North Korea and Pakistan, acquired long ago. That we’ve delayed them this long and seemingly kicked the can years down the road is a remarkable achievement.

 

FILED UNDER: Middle East, World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    The comments on this from Republicans are primo today. Think: Book of Revelation meets Infowars.

    :))

  2. humanoid.panda says:

    I’ll say this: when Obama was elected, he had 3 major goals: to escape Great Depression 2.0, to reform healthcare, and achieve a Middle Eastern breakthrough. The first 2 are in the books, and while the latter ambition was unrealistic, it’s a huge step forward. If the deal holds, it put him solidly in the 2nd echelon of American presidents, somewhere between LBJ and Reagan.

  3. stonetools says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    I said a couple of weeks ago that Obama concluded this Iranian nuclear deal, he’d move into the Presidential Top Ten. Done. And he has 16 months to go.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    That we’ve delayed them this long and seemingly kicked the can years down the road is a remarkable achievement.

    James, James, James…. (shakes head) Don’t you see? Now it is even harder to justify a war. Just an epic failure.

    On the slightly more serious side, I had thought this year wass shaping as a Battle Royale for the coveted Golden Diaper Award. Normally, the distinguished Senator from S Carolina is a front runner from Jan 1 on, but what with the SC decisions in Obergefell and King, he had fallen behind. This however should push him over the top.

  5. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    Depending on who you listen to, it’s either peace in our time or an epic catastrophe.

    I doubt that anyone supporting the deal would be using the phrase “peace in our time”, that would be a phrase used by opponents.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @PJ: I’m being somewhat tongue in cheek with the phrasing. I think the truth is somewhere between the two extremes, but much closer to the supporters’ view than the opponents’—especially given the alternatives.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    Senator Lindsey Graham, a longshot contender for the Republican nomination with real expertise on foreign affairs issues, was typical of the critics, calling the deal “akin to declaring war on Israel and the Sunni Arabs” and “far worse than I ever dreamed it could be and will be a nightmare for the region, our national security and eventually the world at large.”

    Emphasis mine…and please stop typing this crap.
    Butters DOES NOT have foreign policy expertise any more than Dick Morris has political expertise. Expertise implies an expert knowledge or skill. An expert would not be so so wrong so often as this clown is.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @humanoid.panda: In the Senate, non-proliferation was Obama’s special interest, and something he was effective at. I expect that simply preventing Iran from getting the bomb was the primary goal. Any improvement of relations with Iran or in the ME generally is a bonus.

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    In reality the neocons and the Netenyahu government would never had been satisfied with any outcome that didn’t turn Iran into a vast sea of radioactive glass. There also has to be some fear among those companies with operations in the Bakken shale and Ontario tar sands as the price of oil is going to drop once even more making their operations even more uneconomical than they were already.
    There are already at least three countries with nuclear weapons that I see as less rational than the Iranian government: North Korea of course, Pakistan and I would also include Israel.

  10. Scott says:

    To me, our domestic politics WRT to this deal will be distressingly predictable and banal. I would like to know more about internal Iranian politics which seem to me extraordinarily complex with many competing actors. I get hints of strong opposition within Iran basically making the American and Iranian right wings allies. If anyone can point to an article or two concerning this, it would be appreciated.

  11. Scott says:

    @Ron Beasley: I agree that Iran is a rational actor and should not be treated as a caricature. Seems to me we have more common interests, politically, economically, and militarily with Iran than with many other so-called Mid East allies.

  12. Jack says:

    Certainly, we made a lot of concessions that would have been unacceptable—that President Obama and his chief diplomats said were unacceptable—not long ago.

    If you like your nukes, you can keep your nukes. Period. – Obama

  13. Joe says:

    I suspect that most participants in the political process had their press releases on this treaty written a long time ago, and those press releases will not be impacted very much by what’s actually in the treaty.

  14. Paul Hooson says:

    Mideast relations are complex. Iran’s help to fight ISIS in Iraq is needed in the absence of U.S. ground troops, while at the same time many Mideast states combat Iran’s proxy war in the region. Saudi Arabia and Israel both fear a nuclear Iran as well. – And, a further problem is that Iran is only delayed from developing a nuclear bomb, not prevented by this proposal, leaving a mess for a future president to deal with, if Israel or Saudi Arabia don’t act first at some point…

  15. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Butters DOES NOT have foreign policy expertise any more than Dick Morris has political expertise. Expertise implies an expert knowledge or skill. An expert would not be so so wrong so often as this clown is.

    By any reasonable standard, Graham is an expert on foreign policy and military affairs. The Wikipedia definition is a good one:

    An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain. An expert, more generally, is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study. Experts are called in for advice on their respective subject, but they do not always agree on the particulars of a field of study. An expert can be believed, by virtue of credential, training, education, profession, publication or experience, to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the individual’s opinion.

    Graham has spent years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and more than three decades in the Air Force. He’s extremely knowledgeable about, among other things, the Iranian nuclear issue and is privy to far more information than most people.

    My specific point in highlighting his expertise here is to call him out: he should simply know better than some of the crap he’s spouting here.

    Then again, it’s possible that he genuinely believes a less hyperbolic version of what he’s saying—that this is a bad deal that insufficiently protects against an Iranian nuclear capability and prematurely eases the sanctions. Lots of Middle East scholars—people with PhDs from prestige universities and decades of experience in the field, published in highly respected journals—take that view.

    Experts in the field of national security policy disagree all the time. The issues are extremely complicated.

  16. Ron Beasley says:

    @Scott: I agree. While the Saudi royal family sees Iran as a threat the real threat to that regime is internal. A Saudi Arabia controlled by the Wahabis will be a much greater threat to Israel than Iran and I expect to see the Saudi royal family living in condos in New York city and estates in the Hamptons in the not too distant future. I’m sure they have plenty of dollars stashed in Swiss bank accounts to keep them going for decades.
    I too have considered Iran to be our natural ally in the region.

  17. Tyrell says:

    I want to read the fine print. The large print is bad enough. All the while “negotiations” were going on, Iranian leaders were threatening the US, Iraq, and Israel – with nuclear attack. They still have not toned down or turned off their rhetoric.
    The president gave Iran the store before negotiations had even got started good. This is not how you deal with Nazi type leaders. Evidently Sec. Kerry has been using Chamberlain’s play book.
    Their leaders have repeatedly vowed no inspections.
    The president this time did not bother with drawing a line in the sand – he gave them the whole beach. And probably the keys to Ft. Knox and Pentagon computer passwords.
    I want to read what, if any, the penalties and consequences will be when Iran violates this agreement, which they probably have already done.
    Iran still has not been held fully accountable for its attack on the US embassy, seizure of US property, and the imprisonment of US citizens. This was led of course by the infamous nutcase Ayatollah Khomeini, who acted and looked like a character straight out of some Hollywood Sinbad movie. There should have been trials of their leaders for their crimes against the US. We have not forgotten their treatment of US citizens. Part of any treaty should be their public apology.
    Any treaty must include investigations of human rights violations and guarantees of human rights, including freedom of speech, and open elections.
    I will withhold final judgement on this treaty until I can get more details. If it meets the criteria of guarantees, reparations, and enforceable penaties, fine.
    One thing for sure, the US needs to double its flyover recons of Iran.
    See Charles Krauthammer’s article: ” The worst agreement in US diplomatic history”
    “Fine print ? They don’t even read the small print !”

  18. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:

    Iranian leaders were threatening the US, Iraq, and Israel – with nuclear attack.

    WTF? Gotta link for that?

  19. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:

    whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by peers or the public

    So by your own standard Butters is a complete failure. Nothing he says is correct…ever. He is consistently and habitually wrong. Jesus-gawd…he was so wrong about Iraq alone that he should never ever be consulted about Foreign Affairs again.
    That’s one of the biggest problems with the Republican party…there is absolutely zero accountability for being wrong.

  20. Rick DeMent says:

    @Tyrell:

    So what is keeping them from doing whatever they want to do in absence of a deal? I mean let’s assume Lindsey Graham is right and this is somehow the worst of all possible deals. What do they get that they don’t already have specifically regarding their nuke capability? I mean to hear the pearl clutching class tell it, the sanctions are in no way any kind of deterrent from them developing their nuclear capability. The deal only relaxes those sanctions in stages so if the break the deal then they snap back into place and we are back as square one.

    I’m simply not getting the practical downside. And it’s not like this was some kind of hand shake deal between Obama and his muslim overlords, 5 other countries had to sign off too. Does this mean that Lindsey Graham knows something they don’t?

  21. humanoid.panda says:

    @Jack:

    Certainly, we made a lot of concessions that would have been unacceptable—that President Obama and his chief diplomats said were unacceptable—not long ago.

    Cites omitted.

  22. Slugger says:

    For me the key point to all this is the one made in Dr. Joyner’s last paragraph. Fission bombs are a “1940’s technology” that are achievable by nations like N. Korea and Pakistan. The only way to keep a nation like Iran from having bombs is to convince them that they don’t want nuclear weapons. I would guess that belligerent talk by US Senators goes over as well in Teheran as saber rattling talks by ayatollahs do in Washington.
    There are a couple of ways to convince Iran that nukes are a bad idea. One way is to continue economic sanctions, but as long as the world needs oil this raises the cost of a nuclear program but does not disincentivewise it. Actual war is another option, but a quick look at the history of America’s wars since Korea does not show a pattern of outright success. This leaves the negotiation option; there is little other choice in my opinion.
    We Americans may have to accept a world that does not simply say “how high?” when we say “Jump!”

  23. Tillman says:

    I have a high-enough opinion of the Republican party to think voting one for president in ’08 or ’12 wouldn’t have automatically signaled a war with Iran, but I also believe no Republican administration could’ve gotten a deal like this. See, for reference, Cotton’s letter stunt and his utterly-rotten showing on Meet the Press this past Sunday.

    Republican politicians used to see Iran through the lens of the ’80s, but enough of them are being replaced by a new generation formed in the media bubble who just presume Iran is evil regardless. Sure, the Serious People will keep them from outright war, but they wouldn’t have the tact or patience for diplomacy either. Which is odd since if you take the aftermaths of most wars into account, diplomacy seems quicker.

  24. James Pearce says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Gotta link for that?

    It wouldn’t be too hard to find a video on Youtube of an angry Iranian crowd chanting “Death to America.”

    And from that, it wouldn’t be too hard for someone stuck in the 70s, who is still chilled by the image of Khomeni, dead for almost 30 years now, to think that was coming from the “Iranian leadership.”

  25. JohnMcC says:

    @Rick DeMent: It’s always Munich and it’s always 1938. Always.

  26. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnMcC: I could add that Munich/1938 is even more boring than the negotiation that right-wingers constantly had resort to back in the day: It was always Yalta. And it was always 1945. Always.

  27. C. Clavin says:

    @Slugger:

    One way is to continue economic sanctions

    The problem with sanctions (which gets lost on idiots like Butters who have no foreign policy expertise) is that they only strengthen the hand of the extremists. The extremists in Iran are the losers in this deal. It’s much harder for them to sell their propoganda when the moderates have shown that the US and it’s allies can be negotiated with and that we aren’t evil. The key to a peaceful ME is not forcing Democracy on them at gunpoint…it’s in helping moderates get into positions of power. Moderate Arabs and Muslims are the only ones who can defeat the forces of extremism in the region. You cannot fight extremism by being extremists.

  28. C. Clavin says:

    @James Pearce:
    No…he said Iranian leaders, and while negotiations were ongoing.
    I want to see a link for that.

  29. wr says:

    @Tyrell: ““Fine print ? They don’t even read the small print !””

    Um, Tyrell? While one could easily spend hours debunking every silly right-wing lie you’ve regurgitated in your screed, I think I’ll just point out one small nuance:

    The fine print IS the small print.

    I mean, seriously — if you can’t get that part right, why would anyone listen to you on the intricacies of diplomatic agreements?

  30. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain” (emphasis added)

    Is there any evidence that Graham actually judges rightly, justly or wisely, James? Always looking to pour oil onto every hot spot in the world does not qualify.

  31. Tyrell says:

    @wr: Thanks for pointing out my error, made whilst waiting in line at a drive through. It should read:” fine print ? They don’t even read the large print !” This was a quote from a lawyer.

  32. James Pearce says:

    @C. Clavin:

    No…he said Iranian leaders, and while negotiations were ongoing.
    I want to see a link for that.

    It would be nice, wouldn’t it?

    But I understand that this is something that Tyrell cannot actually backup with a link. And that if any link were put forth, it would not be of the “Iranian leadership.” It’s pretty clear Tyrell based that statement on his memories of 1979 rather than, you know, something he observed here in 2015.

  33. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin and @Moosebreath: The point isn’t whether we agree with his judgments—I generally don’t—but whether they’re “accorded authority by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.” By those standards Graham is an expert. He’s looked to as such by both his peers and by the general public.

    @humanoid.panda: We haven’t rid Iran of a nuclear program, merely delayed its implementation. We didn’t get unfettered inspections, merely good enough inspections. Again, I think that’s quite good considering what we were up against. But it’s far short of what the administration’s public minimums were at the outset.

  34. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    The point isn’t whether we agree with his judgments—I generally don’t—but whether they’re “accorded authority by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.” By those standards Graham is an expert. He’s looked to as such by both his peers and by the general public.

    OK, so by a completely banal and meaningless standard Graham is an expert. Basically, he’s an expert because other people call him an expert. He’s an expert not because of any demonstrated real world expertise or knowledge, but because he’s presumed to have expertise and knowledge by those who don’t know any better.

    As always with Republicans, it’s the facile shiny surface, and not any actual substance, that counts.

  35. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: I think your missing the real point here, C. Yes, Graham has been wrong about everything (except Joe Biden). Just as conservative pundits are wrong about nearly everything. Just a W broke everything he touched (except Al Qaeda). But opinions differ, both sides do it, reasonable people may disagree. In other words, IOKIYAR.

  36. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “The point isn’t whether we agree with his judgments—I generally don’t—but whether they’re “accorded authority by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.” By those standards Graham is an expert. He’s looked to as such by both his peers and by the general public.”

    I will disagree with you as to what the point is. If one is consistently wrong, then one isn’t an expert. Anywhere. On any topic.

    Also, I suspect that the only reason that you think Graham is accorded authority and looked to as an expert is because you are listening only to a narrow group. Outside of that group, he is looked on as a joke, at best as John McCain’s Mini-Me, and at worst a totally irresponsible person who is uncounscious of how badly he would irreparably damage US interests.

  37. Tillman says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    OK, so by a completely banal and meaningless standard Graham is an expert. Basically, he’s an expert because other people call him an expert.

    I think he’s saying Graham is more acclimated to foreign policy than the average dude by sheer brutal experience. Not that Graham knows something through careful study or has discerned something through judicious observation, but after forty years he’s got a feel for it.

  38. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:
    1st…I’m not talking opinions…I’m talking about facts…from Iraqs WMD’s to Benghazi…he is always wrong on the facts. (Of course his opinions and judgments are based on the same erroneous facts…ipso facto they are wrong as well.)
    2nd…You and John McCain are the only ones who accord him any authority. I guess because of his brilliant insights, like:

    There are no moderates in the Iranian government

  39. Slugger says:

    There are interesting developments in the price of oil which may be related to this deal. The price is continuing to drop! The prospect of the removal of sanctions on a big oil producer certainly puts downward pressure on the price. A simple economic analysis would indicate that this deal should be favored by oil importers like Europe, disliked by oil producers like our good friends in Saudi Arabia, and get a mixed reception in a nation with a big petroleum producing sector like the USA. I would predict that American politicians with oil money backing will be quite vocal in their opposition.
    Maybe all of this furor is not about religion or fanaticism but understandable from a simple market analysis.

  40. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath: @C. Clavin: I’m using “expert” in the standard, academic sense which is value neutral: does the person possess the credentials, knowledge, and experience to make him able to speak authoritatively on a subject. In the social sciences, highly regarded experts disagree, vehemently, on a regular basis. Paul Wolfowitz is both an honest-to-goodness expert on defense policy and yet got most everything about the Iraq War wrong; the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Nobel Prize-winning economists disagree on fundamental issues on a regular basis; it doesn’t render one of them non-expert.

    @Slugger: I think the Israel issue colors this one far more than does oil. Plus, 36 years of animus going back to the days of the Hostage Crisis.

  41. C. Clavin says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Basically, he’s an expert because other people call him an expert.

    No…because he calls himself an expert. I’ve spend some time looking online and I can’t find anyone else calling him a foreign policy expert…except Lindsey Graham. And James Joyner.

    If I’m president of the United States, and you’re thinking about joining Al Qaeda or ISIL — anybody thinking about that? — I’m not gonna call the judge, I’m gonna call the drone. And we will kill you.

    He clearly isn’t an expert on the Constitution.

  42. PJ says:

    Who cares about the reactions from Republicans? I could have told anyone what they would say weeks, even years, before this deal.

    The only thing that matters is the reaction from Clinton and the reactions from Democrats in Congress.

  43. Scott says:

    Really, people. Talk about boring discussions. Instead of discussing the issue at hand, it quickly devolved into a discussion of Lindsay Graham. Childish.

  44. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:

    the two aren’t mutually exclusive

    I’d love to talk to you after an expert mechanic screws up your car beyond all recognition.
    You gotta get out of that Ivory Tower, my friend. Experts don’t get everything wrong…fools do. Wolfie and Butters are both fools.

  45. C. Clavin says:

    @Scott:
    Sorry – I didn’t mean to hijack the discussion.
    But we have to stop listening to idiots like Graham who have no authority based on their own track record.
    For my take on the topic please see:
    @C. Clavin:

  46. Tony W says:

    @James Joyner:

    The point isn’t whether we agree with his judgments—I generally don’t—but whether they’re “accorded authority by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.” By those standards Graham is an expert. He’s looked to as such by both his peers and by the general public.

    James, I think the point that is being missed here is that hyperbole itself is evidence that Graham is not an expert in foreign policy. Symbols and rhetoric are the core tools of diplomacy – and in those areas Graham is clueless. The most effective diplomats, as Clavin points out above, are the moderates because they neutralize the crazies (on both sides). Graham is part of the problem – not the solution.

  47. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by peers

    So a guy who is pretty much always wrong is recognized by his peers on the right, who are pretty much always wrong, as an expert. And that makes him an expert.

    The 21st century gives me a headache…

  48. michael reynolds says:

    It’s too early in the morning for treaty-reading here on the west coast. But I’d suggest that one way to judge the honesty of critics is by the alternatives they put forward. Because as far as I can see there are three scenarios:

    1) A fantasy negotiation that would have come out better.
    2) Eternal sanctions.
    3) War.

    #1 is just so much vapor. If you weren’t in the room for the last 2 years you don’t know what you could or couldn’t have negotiated.

    #2 is nonsense – the sanctions regime is already fraying and will only continue to weaken. Russia isn’t going to play along indefinitely.

    #3 is what Israel, Saudi Arabia, their Congressional employees and the ever-agitated neocons really want. But they are doomed to disappointment because the American people are just not interested in another war at this time.

    So, if your position is that “Person X could have negotiated better,” you’ll need to explain how Person X would have managed this given that we have allies in this, given that sanctions are never forever, given that we are not up for a war just now, and given that Iran knows all this.

  49. An Interested Party says:

    Iran still has not been held fully accountable for its attack on the US embassy, seizure of US property, and the imprisonment of US citizens.

    Iranians would say that the United States has not been held fully accountable for overthrowing a democratically-elected government in Iran in 1953 and putting the Shah (and his hideous secret police) in power…you reap what you sow…

  50. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    The point isn’t whether we agree with his judgments—I generally don’t—but whether they’re “accorded authority by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.” By those standards Graham is an expert. He’s looked to as such by both his peers and by the general public.

    Actually, the point is that you’re contradicting yourself. Now that I look at it again, I notice that your first claim wasn’t, in fact, that Graham was “accorded” expertise, but that he actually had it. You wrote:

    Senator Lindsey Graham, a longshot contender for the Republican nomination with real expertise on foreign affairs issues,

    You didn’t just claim other people regarded him as an expert, you yourself lauded his “real expertise on foreign policy.” When called on this, you’re now trying to walk it back, because even you can’t point to any actual real-world accomplishments, predictions, or pronouncements that indicate an actual knowledge and understanding of the subject on Graham’s part.

  51. Gustopher says:

    @Paul Hooson:

    And, a further problem is that Iran is only delayed from developing a nuclear bomb, not prevented by this proposal, leaving a mess for a future president to deal with, if Israel or Saudi Arabia don’t act first at some point…

    Would you really trust a permanent deal?

    I think this is better than a permanent deal as it keeps the pressure on the Iranians. This isn’t a solved problem that everyone in the international community can then walk away from pleased to have done their job once and for all — whereupon Iran can restart when people aren’t paying close attention and then we have the problem of getting everyone worked up about it again.

  52. Scott says:

    @Scott: To answer my own request, I recommend this: not a political power article but a cultural one. Impressionistic but interesting.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/iran-past-the-paranoia/

  53. Jack says:

    @humanoid.panda: I was quoting James’ article. If you read it, you would know that.

  54. C. Clavin says:

    A sub-title on Salon.Com…really sums up all the reaction that I’ve seen so far:

    A Win for Diplomacy is a Loss for Republicans

  55. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: I would say the president is down near the Millard Fillmore range and is getting closer to Andrew Johnson.

  56. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    The point isn’t whether we agree with his judgments—I generally don’t—but whether they’re “accorded authority by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain.” By those standards Graham is an expert. He’s looked to as such by both his peers and by the general public.

    “Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally.” — John Maynard Keynes

  57. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    Still waiting for you to back this up…
    @Tyrell:

    All the while “negotiations” were going on, Iranian leaders were threatening the US, Iraq, and Israel – with nuclear attack.

    If you can’t…or aren’t willing to admit you were lying…then you shouldn’t be commenting further.

  58. gVOR08 says:

    @Tyrell: If I challenged Stonetools on his opinion of Obama, I expect he could,top of the head, produce a pretty good argument with examples. You?

  59. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: We’re having two related arguments—both tangential to the subject of the post—on Graham’s expertise. I note, in damning Graham’s comments, that they’re worse because of his genuine expertise in foreign policy. In response to this, it was alleged that Graham can’t be an expert because he’s on the wrong side of the issue. I then produce a definition for “expert” that demonstrates Graham meets the facets required for that designation, which produced a sidebar debate on whether he met the definition.

    Expertise on complex problems isn’t gauged on one’s ability to predict the future but by a combination of credentials, experience, and being sought out for one’s opinions on the subject. Indeed, experts are often very poor predictors for a variety of reasons. In contentious fields like foreign policy, leading experts often diverge bitterly on interpretations of the facts.

    Graham knows more about foreign and military affairs than 99.99% of the populace. He’s legitimately an expert in those fields. I nonetheless disagree with him on most issues related to foreign policy. (Relatedly: Rand Paul is an expert in the field of medicine. I’m not. I nonetheless disagree with him on vaccines and feel comfortable doing so.)

  60. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:

    being sought out for one’s opinions on the subject

    Who is doing that?

  61. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “In response to this, it was alleged that Graham can’t be an expert because he’s on the wrong side of the issue.”

    No, the problem is that Graham cannot be an expert because he has been on the wrong side of every issue. At some point, his track record has to be taken into account in determining whether he actually possesses the knowledge of the field needed to be an expert.

  62. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin: The United States Senate. Pretty much every media outlet on the planet.

    @Moosebreath: It’s hyperbolic to say he’s wrong on every issue. He’s generally pro-interventionist but then so are a whole lot of people, left and right, who are widely acknowledged experts. (Susan Rice is wrong at least as often as Graham. She’s clearly an expert.)

  63. OzarkHillbilly says:
  64. de stijl says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Iranians would say that the United States has not been held fully accountable for overthrowing a democratically-elected government in Iran in 1953 and putting the Shah (and his hideous secret police) in power…you reap what you sow…

    And this has been explained to that particular commenter again and again and again.

    He will not be satisfied until Iran eats our poop, poops out the remnants of our poop, and is forced by international law to rub it all over their faces and in their hair, and then we get to call them poopyheads for eternity. That’s the level of his analysis.

  65. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:
    One – Butters got himself elected to the Senate…the Senate didn’t come looking for him.
    Two – the media wouldn’t know an expert if said expert bit the media in the arse. McCain, Bill Kristol, Dick Morris, Liz Cheney, Stephen Moore, Sarah Palin, Tucker Carlson…the list of people with no expertise who regularly appear on the media is shameful…and hardly a qualifier for anything.

  66. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tyrell: Then you really are completely ignorant of history in addition to everything else.

  67. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    Pretty much every media outlet on the planet.

    Uh James? Pretty much every media outlet on the planet seeks out Donald Trump for comment too. I don’t think it’s his expertise they’re interested in.

  68. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:
    So basically what you have moved the goal posts to is that Butters is a Senator who gets on TV alot and that makes him an expert.

  69. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    (Susan Rice is wrong at least as often as Graham. She’s clearly an expert.)

    (A) Susan Rice is not wrong at least as often as Graham. It’s idiocy to assert that.

    (B) Susan Rice studied history at Stanford and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, where she earned a DPhil and where her dissertation was lauded as the most distinguished in the UK in the field of international relations. She served on the National Security Council, as director for international organizations and peacekeeping, and as special assistant to the president and senior director for Africa under Clinton, was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and has served as UN Ambassador and National Security Adviser under Obama. With almost thirty years of high-level academic and professional work in the field, she’s legitimately an expert.

    Graham, by contrast, is a US Senator with a BA in Psychology and a JD from the University of South Carolina. Where did he study foreign affairs? What has he published? Lacking any actual academic or practical background in the field, his only claim to expertise can come from what he’s done and said on the Senate Int’l Relations Committee — but, as noted above, virtually all of what he’s done and said there indicates he has little to no actual understanding of the topic.

  70. de stijl says:

    @Moosebreath:

    No, the problem is that Graham cannot be an expert because he has been on the wrong side of every issue. At some point, his track record has to be taken into account in determining whether he actually possesses the knowledge of the field needed to be an expert.

    If a doctor could diagnose every ailment competently and expertly, but his only suggested treatment plan solution for every patient, no matter the disease from the common cold to bowel obstruction to Stage 4 bone cancer, was an appendectomy, would you consider that doctor to be an “expert?”

    For Joyner, the definition of “expert” is someone who has knowledge.

    Graham knows more about foreign and military affairs than 99.99% of the populace. He’s legitimately an expert in those fields.

    But if belligerence and war is the only tool in his kit, he is a very fixated, foolish expert.

  71. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Pretty much every media outlet on the planet.

    So Lindsey Graham is an expert on international affairs the same way Donald Trump is, then, if we’re counting the fact that media outlets want to interview them as proof of expertise.

  72. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: So, Rice is an expert because she had a PhD and has worked in foreign policy for decades, whereas Graham isn’t an expert, despite working in foreign policy for decades, because he only has a JD? Surely Paul Wolfowitz, also a neocon, is an expert then? He has his PhD from Chicago.

    @C. Clavin: Not just a Senator but a longtime member of the SASC, an Air Force judge, etc. He’s deeply learned in the issues and has spent years as a high level practitioner.

    @de stijl: Foreign policymaking isn’t akin to being an auto mechanic or even a physician. Steady state systems allow for a different level of skill than complex systems.

    @Rafer Janders: Trump has legitimate expertise in business and self-promotion, but none in foreign affairs.

  73. C. Clavin says:

    @James Joyner:
    You cannot always be wrong and also be

    a high level practitioner.

    Perhaps he’s a low level practitioner?
    C’mon…admit it…he’s a hack pretending to be something he’s not. He’s a wannabe. I’m willing to bet real experts laugh at him behind his back. I mean…he was a judge…he was never even deployed.
    If he were a Dr. he would lose his license for malpractice.

  74. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think the problem you are having here is linguistic in nature. You are saying expertise when you mean experience. Experience is what you get by showing up; winners and loser both get experience from the game but the winner is the one waking away with the expertise. A towel boy is at the same game as the quarterback but you’d never confuse the two at crunch time. Being wrong is an experience that can lead to expertise if one bothers to learn from it and seeks to not make the same mistakes but it is not an automatic process. If one keeps losing/being wrong because one does nothing to improve oneself or evolve, then all one continually experiences is being a loser.

    Graham has experience through contact, exposure, his job and duties. This is a fact. Graham is not an expert or have relevant expertise most would want to utilize based off his past performance. This is pretty much self-evident to everyone but Graham.

  75. de stijl says:

    @James Joyner:

    Steady state systems allow for a different level of skill than complex systems.

    You’ve never watched House.

    But seriously, I understand that you are arguing to your definition of “expertise” as knowledge and I agree with your assertion that:

    Graham knows more about foreign and military affairs than 99.99% of the populace.

    But expertise is more than knowledge of the current state. It is understanding that one’s actions have both intended and unintended consequences and will change the dynamic. “What will our course of action be in this new environment we’ve created?” should not be an alien question to an expert in my definition of the word.

  76. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: It took Doug a couple years to learn to, usually, not lurk on the thread and keep digging. @C. Clavin: Made a snarky comment, a little hyperbolic. I think you’ve overreacted.

    This is really a semantic argument. Are the people at the Heartland Institute experts on Global Warming? Yes. Are any of their public statements true? No. Should anyone seek or take their advice? No. Are they still experts? Yes, kinda, sort of.

    I think you and C are both using this as a surrogate for debating the whole neocon enterprise. Or maybe even about whether there is objective truth. Either of which might be a more interesting discussion.

  77. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Trump has legitimate expertise in business and self-promotion, but none in foreign affairs.

    I dunno, he is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by peers or the public in the domain of foreign affairs, and is believed to have special knowledge of the subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the individual’s opinion. Seems like an expert to me…..

  78. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    So, Rice is an expert because she had a PhD and has worked in foreign policy for decades, whereas Graham isn’t an expert, despite working in foreign policy for decades, because he only has a JD?

    Yes, that’s partly right. Rice is an expert both because of (a) academic credentials and (b) decades of work and experience in the field. Foreign affairs is all she’s ever done. Graham, by contrast, has neither the education nor the experience. His work in foreign policy is merely one of multiple things he’s responsible for as a Senator, and despite his years on committees it’s not at all apparent that he’s absorbed or learned anything.

    Surely Paul Wolfowitz, also a neocon, is an expert then? He has his PhD from Chicago.

    Yes, Paul Wolfowitz, though a neocon, is actually an expert. He’s has a PhD from Chicago and decades of 24/7 hands-on work in the foreign policy field. He’s wrong, and he’s an idiot, but he does have a legitimate claim to expertise in his field and a deep and vast breadth of knowledge. Graham, by contrast, is merely an opinionated amateur. Had you claimed Wolfowitz as an expert you’d have had no quibble from me.

  79. LWA says:

    Graham is to Mideast expertise what Robert McNamara was to Asian expertise.

    Or to paraphrase, a first class intellect and a second rate temperament.

  80. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Not just a Senator but a longtime member of the SASC, an Air Force judge, etc. He’s deeply learned in the issues and has spent years as a high level practitioner.

    Being in the Air Force and being a military judge in no way qualifies someone as a foreign policy expert. That’s ludicrous.

  81. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    Trump has legitimate expertise in business and self-promotion, but none in foreign affairs.

    Trump has been married thrice, two of his wives were foreigners.
    He secretly started dating his second wife while still being married to his first.
    Now, his second wife is an American, so that would only make it a domestic affair.

    But, from the evidence presented, his personality and views, and my personal view of him, I assume that he has quite the expertise in not only domestic affairs, but also foreign affairs.

  82. stonetools says:

    @Tyrell:

    I would say the president is down near the Millard Fillmore range and is getting closer to Andrew Johnson.

    Heh, Tyrell, you are an expert on Presidents like Lindsay Graham is an expert on foreign policy…

  83. KM says:

    @stonetools:
    Did he stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night by any chance? I hear Graham’s trying to permanently book the room down the hall…..

  84. Hal_10000 says:

    OK. Whoever had “Tyrell” in the pool for “first person to mention Chamberlain in reference to the Iran deal” collect your winnings.

    I think this is the last bad option. We can’t bomb them without starting a massive international crisis. We can’t maintain the sanctions forever. So we’ll have to live with this (or Syria will, once Iranian money begins flowing into there).

  85. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Joyner:

    He’s looked to as [an expert] by both his peers and by the general public.

    You’re kidding, right? I mean, I can see the “by the general public” part, but by his peers? Are you guys really that credulous or is this more in the spirit of academic freedom/dorm room debates?

  86. dennis says:

    @Scott:

    Here you go, Scott:

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/02/23/is-the-iranian-regime-rational/

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/03/irans-leaders-are-not-suicidal-nuclear-deal/386507/

    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2012-06-15/why-iran-should-get-bomb

    Foreign Affairs has a great article in one of its mid-2000s (IIRC) issues narrating Iran’s assistance, cooperation, and outreach to the U.S. in the wake of 9/11/2000, but I’m loathe to go digging for it …

  87. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    One more thing, having more foreign policy/military affairs expertise than “99.99% of the population” may not be that high of a bar to jump.

  88. dazedandconfused says:

    James,

    Our intelligence community dubs it “likely” that Iran stopped their weapons development program with the fall of Saddam in 2003. They found evidence there had been one up to then and evidence which strongly suggests they ceased at that time. I imagine they wished to save money and the problems testing would have brought upon them are clear. No testing equals little credible nuclear deterrent and a lot of people very angry at them. Bad combo.

    I doubt reading the thing will provide a clear picture. The devil in the details of practice on verification prevents much certainty. At this time the primary effect is to separate Bibi from the balls he displayed at the UN and thereby lessen the risk the Likud dragging Israel and very likely the US along for another war in the ME.

  89. stonetools says:

    Wow, a thread mostly on whether Lindsay Graham is a foreign policy expert. IMO, Lindsay Graham is a foreign policy expert like General George McClellan was a military strategist-except I think McClellan was a better general than Graham is a foreign policy expert.

    As to the deal, I think it’s the best we could get under the circumstances. I note most of the real foreign policy experts think the Administration did quite well, and most of the right wing ideologues are convinced that Iran was on the brink of total capitulation when OBummer and and that Vietnam War turncoat Kerry snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
    Time will tell, but I’m betting that the experts will be vindicated. I think these last 30 days may have been the best run ever by a “lame duck” President. What next , Obama? A cancer cure?

  90. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: McClellan was a great strategist. Landing on the Virginia Peninsula was brilliant. And would have worked if led by anyone except McClellan. Great planner, lousy fighter.

  91. Tillman says:

    @stonetools:

    IMO, Lindsay Graham is a foreign policy expert like General George McClellan was a military strategist-except I think McClellan was a better general than Graham is a foreign policy expert.

    Heh heh. No one gets that reference.