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If anyone is hoping for foreign policy wisdom from me about this, you’re looking to the wrong person. Nothing about this makes sense. Adam Garfinkle’s piece in the American Interest strikes me as closest to rational. He rejects the idea that the negotiations are “a cover for shepherding that bomb into being as an ante toward bringing about an Iranian-U.S. condominium to ‘stabilize’ the Middle East,” this on the grounds that the explanation is essentially a conspiracy theory:
It behooves those who hold such views to explain why an American President would think that multinational nuclear proliferation in the Middle East suits mid- to long-term U.S. national security interests. It obviously doesn’t, and so they cannot explain their position rationally.
But he notes that it would seem the President was willing to accept any deal, however unfavorable:
… the hopeful interpretations attached to this decision … make absolutely no sense. The manifest unwillingness of the President to walk away from these increasingly pointless and even ridiculous negotiations on March 31 directly contradicts the intended message that he is, in fact, willing to walk away. Moreover, if U.S. negotiators make concession after concession after concession, as they have, then it leads others to wonder where the line is that changes a good deal into a bad one from which we walk away. Conclusion: There probably isn’t any such line.
Note that the Iranians are now claiming the Administration is lying about the terms of the deal. No idea what to think of that: I’m not inclined to start trusting Tehran more than I do Washington. If I were, then I wouldn’t worry about negotiating with Tehran, right? But the series of Tweets emanating last night from the Iranian negotiating team hardly filled me with confidence that any kind of deal in which I could repose even face-value confidence had been struck.
What I simply don’t understand is the point of this deal—in the President’s mind. As Garfinkle points out, Iran is already a nuclear threshold state, and we’re already on the verge of massive WMD proliferation in the region. Thus his conclusion follows naturally:
Sooner or later, under either this Administration or its successor, we will be right back where we started before all the talking began: We will have to choose between living with an nuclear-armed Iran, letting some other power try to take care of it, or using a variety of moderate- to high-risk means to first paralyze and ultimately prevent it. When all is said and done, what happened today in Switzerland will be seen as not having made so much as a dent in this wall of bad options.
So why are we doing this? What piece of the puzzle is missing? Could there be any secret provision that makes this deal seem rational? Could there be any good reason to kick this decision further down the line? From what I know of it, the deal doesn’t even seem worth the money spent on all those expensive orchid arrangements.
I surely appreciate that there are no good options—only the least bad—but why the urgency to sign off on this particular bad option? Does it look less bad than the others in any obvious way to you? Is there any information that could be added to the picture of the negotiations we now have that would make you say, “Okay, this now seems clearly to be the least bad of our bad options?”Published in