Sunday, August 9, 2015


The more one gets familiar with the Iran deal, the less appealing it looks.  Right, the Iran side does almost everything imaginable to undermine the smiles in Vienna.  Not later than last week Iran's Quds Force leader, General Quassem Soleimani, had a happy-hour with President Putin in Moscow, having travelled in defiance of the UN travel ban. The American president continues to try to salvage the deal, despite the misgivings inside and the transgression from the Iranians. Lately he has mobilised US scientists to come to the rescue.  The deal is probably as good as one could get.  Despite ambiguities and loopholes it is still a comprehensive instrument, albeit limited in time and scope, and an open door to cheating.
The questions are of another nature:

--This is not a diplomatic quid pro quo. The Vienna compromise belongs more to the Putin mindset, wherein gains can be halted but wherein ulterior ambitions remain. Some of the wires in the house were dealt with but the overall situation remains shaky. This is not a type of SALT classical solemn diplomatic agreement, with reciprocal comparable wins and losses.  This is a "geek's" backroom deal, without guarantee for longevity and negotiated with a partner known for bad faith.

--The "this or war" alternative is not serious.  Iran suffered ad nauseam under sanctions (centrifuges do not come cheap ) , some of which could have been further reinforced by the US alone. Further sanctions and alternative diplomatic avenues (with the Gulf States), might have worked better than this "trick", which will put neither an end to the war of words nor the war by proxy. Some commentators mention a "Munich bis" but they forget that Chamberlain came home as the lauded man of peace (wrongly), while Kerry returned as the man who was duped (rightly?).

--Now that the US has gotten the 5+1 to swallow the pill (some with relish: Russia, China), some with second thoughts (the rest), this coalition will not stand if the US were to renege on the signed agreement. The Europeans see a market, while the Iranians will be too happy to oblige all and will seek ways to compensate for falling oil prices. They might still free the Americans they have in custody, but "Death to America" will remain the Leitmotiv.

--Israel is overplaying its deck in Washington and could end up further alienating its stoutest ally. The Israeli P.M. could soon be even more persona non grata than he was was before, under Secretary of State James Baker. Obama should likewise get over his visceral antipathy toward the Israeli P.M. The boisterous Israeli Rambo ambassador in Washington, for his part, should learn his job rather than emulate some unfortunate precedents in world history.

--The Administration will certainly blackmail Congress but it is unlikely that this will work out. The presidential veto is hard to overrule. This fall will be marked by bitter fights between Obama and the Republicans but this might, in the end, convince hesitating Democrats to rally around the President.

--It looks probable that the unpopular Vienna Beggars Opera will stand. This move was not called for without a collateral. It creates uneasy feelings among America's allies in the Middle East, it becomes a wedge between Israel and the US and it is a treasure chest for Iran's cheating and evading skills.  This trophy had better stay in the attic of history, together with other major blunders.

Maybe the Nobel Prize will go to the Iranian and American negotiators. I am tempted to advance that both believe in their "achievement". One rightly so, the other painfully so. Some still think that Obama's "grand bargain" will work out in the end.  President Bush, too, believed that invasion was not too high a price to create a democracy which would expand in the region.  One historical blunder is enough to risk a second one.

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