If There’s no Iran Deal, Then What?

 

A flurry of leaks and news reports seems designed to prepare us for the collapse of the Iran negotiations. We’re being told that Obama is “no longer sanguine” about the prospects.

Russian state media (for what that’s worth) reported that a senior official from the group of six told Zarif that if he didn’t want to reach a deal, they could end the talks right then and there. Iranian state media (for what that’s worth) identified that official as the Entity-Formerly-Known-as-the-European-Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. Zarif apparently barked, “Never try to threaten the Iranians.” Lavrov apparently added, “Nor the Russians.” What the Americans said went un-leaked, but there are rumors that Kerry was heard screaming at Zarif, and that his aide had to tip-toe in to warn him that everyone in the hotel could hear it.

Doesn’t sound as if things are trending group-hugwise.

Negotiators, reports Bloomberg, are feeling claustrophobic. “It feels as if we’re locked in all day,” a Western official complained. (CNN failed to get the hint. It’s running this story front and center: Why your next vacation could be in Iran.)

According to Congress, the Iran deal deadline is 11:59 p.m., tonight. Legally speaking, if there’s no deal by midnight, it goes to 60 days of review.

We now know that Iran is “at most” two or three months from the ability to produce the Bomb. Two months is roughly 60 days.

Should the deal collapse, then what?

Published in Foreign Policy, General
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  1. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Same as if the deal does not collapse.  Iran gets the bomb.

    • #1
  2. user_75648 Thatcher
    user_75648
    @JohnHendrix

    Gee, it appears that Iran is going to get the bomb in spite of Obama’s best efforts.  Who could have seen that coming?

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    BDB nailed it. There never was a deal that would have prevented the Iranians from getting their mitts on the Bomb. The Obama Administration will need to go to Plan B.

    I’m sure they’ll get right on that – just as soon as they come up with a Plan A for dealing with ISIS.

    • #3
  4. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    John Hendrix:Gee, it appears that Iran is going to get the bomb in spite of Obama’s best efforts. Who could have seen that coming?

    All quite by accident, you see.  The nutty professor part-time lecturer really has our best interests at heart.

    • #4
  5. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    I’m not really that familiar with these sorts of things, but if the sixty days of review is legally the next step, and Iran is about that far from producing a bomb, then I assume the State Department could find some unexpected way of extending the deadline a bit. It always seems like we (well, “they”) breeze through every deadline set so far, so I never expect a real deadline to arrive. If Kerry is yelling at his Iranian counterpart, then at least they’re not in the usual diplomatic mindset of cordial negotiations to set the next meeting date and finalize an agenda and an hors d’oeuvre list.

    On the other hand, I’ve never thought that this administration has taken the possibility of an Iranian bomb seriously. They’ve certainly treated Iran as if it didn’t really want a bomb and could be persuaded to give up its peaceful nuclear clean-energy program in return for some lovely gifts. I don’t know how much a solid deadline means to our team. Claire, you’ve researched this field for years—is there any way of telling when diplomats are about to get serious ?

    • #5
  6. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Tim H.:  Claire, you’ve researched this field for years—is there any way of telling when diplomats are about to get serious ?

    They retire.  Signs of increasing seriousness are the initial book tour (ghost-written), chairing an international panel of very serious persons indeed, and finally settling down to write their own book.

    • #6
  7. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Tim H.: Claire, you’ve researched this field for years—is there any way of telling when diplomats are about to get serious ?

    I don’t think there is, no.

    The Russian deputy foreign minister just said a deal is possible within hours. So …

    • #7
  8. Capt. Aubrey Inactive
    Capt. Aubrey
    @CaptAubrey

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-iranian-nuclear-paradox-1436397909

    This fellow argues that a failure will lead to open conflict with Iran sooner than continued containment.

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Manny

    I don’t believe Iran is two months away from the bomb.  I don’t have inside information, but just a feeling on how these things go.  It’s a negotiating threat.

    If the deal falls through it will be the first positive news I’ve seen in months.

    • #9
  10. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Capt. Aubrey:http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-iranian-nuclear-paradox-1436397909

    This fellow argues that a failure will lead to open conflict with Iran sooner than continued containment.

    Their point is the opposite, I think: a deal will lead to open conflict sooner, and thus “hawks who believe that airstrikes are the only possible option for stopping an Iranian nuke should welcome a deal perhaps more than anyone.” 

    It’s badly written, but I know their writing, so I’m pretty sure what they’re trying to say. They’re saying it’s best to sign the deal, because we can be sure they’ll violate it, and that will allow Obama’s successor to say that all efforts at diplomacy were truly exhausted.

    Of course, by that point we may be dealing with a nuclear Iran. That said, we may already be dealing with one now.

    • #10
  11. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @OldBathos

    This weird idea that a formalized complete surrender is a valuable “deal” to be pursued has always baffled me.  The worst part of a “deal” would be the illusion that we would then be buddies with Iran and thus even slower to notice their depredations around the world, often directed at us.  A failure of the “deal” would affirm an implicit state of conflict which at least has the virtue of reflecting reality.

    • #11
  12. user_1830 Coolidge
    user_1830
    @HerrForce1

    Manny: If the deal falls through it will be the first positive news I’ve seen in months.

    I’ve been living with Manny’s sentiment for a long time, especially since Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Capitol Hill address in March.

    My intuition says Iran will be nuclear either way. A “deal” gives the administration official approval for its unilateral withdrawal from serious deterrence. Deterrence is hard. It takes resources away from the domestic engineering the administration relishes most.

    Am I misguided to hope that “no deal” allows us to limp toward 2017 State Department leadership? Probably.

    As for Kerry, I haven’t heard him this worked up since Massachusetts tried to collect his yacht fee.

    • #12
  13. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Old Bathos:This weird idea that a formalized complete surrender is a valuable “deal” to be pursued has always baffled me. The worst part of a “deal” would be the illusion that we would then be buddies with Iran and thus even slower to notice their depredations around the world, often directed at us. A failure of the “deal” would affirm an implicit state of conflict which at least has the virtue of reflecting reality.

    Well, arms control agreements can be signed without suggesting that. It’s not as if the SALT and START treaties created the illusion that the US had no quarrel with the Soviet Union.

    • #13
  14. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Best case: back where we started.

    Worst case: war with Iran. (Which would be bad news for containing and defeating ISIS.)

    But both sides have too much political capital invested in getting a deal to walk away from this easily. I suspect all these last minute histrionics are for (Iranian and American) domestic consumption.  Business in Iran and the West is gearing up to make money, so I think the deal will go through.

    • #14
  15. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    Ball Diamond Ball:Same as if the deal does not collapse. Iran gets the bomb.

    Also either way the GOP will be blamed for all negative outcomes.

    • #15
  16. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Stopping Iran from getting the bomb whenever they chose to do so was always a long shot.  The difference is that if we do the deal along the lines I’ve been reading about we’d continue to leave the initiative as to whether and when to take the final steps to produce a bomb and Iran would also get:

    1.  A $100 billion dollar signing bonus to spend as it chooses.

    2. An end to sanctions.  With Western businesses flocking in they will soon become effective lobbyists on behalf of the Iranian regime with their home governments because of fear of losing their investments.

    3. No chance of a “snapback” on sanctions regardless of Iranian actions because of lobbying by Western businesses plus China and Russia blocking any action at the U.N.

    • #16
  17. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Mark:3. No chance of a “snapback” on sanctions regardless of Iranian actions because of lobbying by Western businesses plus China and India blocking any action at the U.N.

    Why are they all so unconcerned at the prospect of a nuclear Iran?

    • #17
  18. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Zafar:

    Mark:3. No chance of a “snapback” on sanctions regardless of Iranian actions because of lobbying by Western businesses plus China and India blocking any action at the U.N.

    Why are they all so unconcerned at the prospect of a nuclear Iran?

    I meant to say China and Russia, not India.

    • #18
  19. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    No, India is pretty unconcerned. I meant I agreed that these countries and Western Business are unconcerned, I was asking why this might be so.

    • #19
  20. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Zafar,

    Zafar:No, India is pretty unconcerned.I meant I agreed that these countries and Western Business is unconcerned, I was asking why this might be so.

    Probably a follow-the-money moment here.

    • #20
  21. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Zafar:No, India is pretty unconcerned.I meant I agreed that these countries and Western Business are unconcerned, I was asking why this might be so.

    My guesses:

    China is traditionally very reluctant to do anything via coordinated international action to interfere with government actions anywhere.  It is also intent on maintaining good relations with all potential oil suppliers and apparently views Iran as a large potential market for electronics and weapons.

    Russia seems intent on reviving the Cold War and building an anti-Western alliance.  Who’d be better as an ally than a regime whose main slogan is “Death to America”?  In addition Russia has sold military and nuclear technology to Iran and sees it as an even bigger market if sanctions are removed.

    My remark on the Western businesses is less about current state than on what will inevitably happen if sanctions are dropped.

    Your thoughts?

    • #21
  22. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    War involving Iran would not make money for this crowd.

    • #22
  23. Ricochet Moderator
    Ricochet
    @OldBathos

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Old Bathos:This weird idea that a formalized complete surrender is a valuable “deal” to be pursued has always baffled me. The worst part of a “deal” would be the illusion that we would then be buddies with Iran and thus even slower to notice their depredations around the world, often directed at us. A failure of the “deal” would affirm an implicit state of conflict which at least has the virtue of reflecting reality.

    Well, arms control agreements can be signed without suggesting that. It’s not as if the SALT and START treaties created the illusion that the US had no quarrel with the Soviet Union.

    But those agreements (a) involved mutual reductions rather than unilateral concessions and (b) were not part of a broader foreign policy of retreat under the guise of post-Bush bonhomie.

    The proposed Iran deal is precisely intended to create the illusion of a new era of US-Iran rapprochement as cover for bugging out of the Middle East.  The likely reliance on the objection that we could jeopardize this new friendship if we were critical of future Iranian misbehavior is a feature not a bug of this undertaking.

    • #23
  24. Barrel Inactive
    Barrel
    @Barrel

    A question and prediction.  Question first: there seems to be an almost universal opinion that, regardless of what happens in Vienna,  the international will for continuing sanctions is gone.  If that is the case, exactly what leverage could we exert on Iran to have them agree to a deal?   Clearly their best strategy is to drag the negotiations out as long as possible, continue to sap international will (such as it is) and, in the end, agree to nothing while still banking significant relief.

    I suppose those of us on the right might take some comfort in the above analysis as it makes it less likely that this deal will get done but because this administration started and conducted negotiations so cravenly, it seems to me that we end up with options which are all worse than the pre negotiations status quo.

    Prediction: Iran walks away without an agreement secure in the belief that they can endure an additional two years of an Obama administration, who will almost certainly not respond to any provocation “kenetically” and then trust our political process and short attention span to help them secure thier gains and concesions already granted and sanctions certain to be lifted.

    Is there a more optimistic take?

    • #24
  25. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Mark:

    Your thoughts?

    My thoughts are that Iran as a threat is something that plays to a domestic agenda in the US, but that agenda is missing in these other countries, and indeed is not universal in the US (hence US business’s interest in a deal).

    An Iran that runs around creating havoc by dropping bombs here and there (resulting in a Middle Eastern Armageddon) is emphatically not in their business interests either – and their level of comfort with an Iran deal, as indeed their very grudging acceptance of sanctions because they want to keep the US Congress sweet, indicates that they really don’t see it as a likely outcome.

    • #25
  26. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Capt. Aubrey:http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-iranian-nuclear-paradox-1436397909

    This fellow argues that a failure will lead to open conflict with Iran sooner than continued containment.

    Their point is the opposite, I think: a deal will lead to open conflict sooner, and thus “

    It’s badly written, but I know their writing, so I’m pretty sure what they’re trying to say. They’re saying it’s best to sign the deal, because we can be sure they’ll violate it, and that will allow Obama’s successor to say that all efforts at diplomacy were truly exhausted.

    Of course, by that point we may be dealing with a nuclear Iran. That said, we may already be dealing with one now.

    One nuke does not a power make. Plus there is more to making a nuclear device than just having the uranium or plutonium. You have to make the whole detonation mechanisms. I don’t know if you can validate it without having the nuclear material first to see if you get the chain reaction. Even if you buy it off the shelf you still probably need 2-3 weapons worth of material just to run some tests before you put them into your Israel killing missiles. After all shooting a nuclear dud at a country is way worse than shooting a functioning bomb.

    • #26
  27. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Valiuth: One nuke does not a power make.

    Selected almost at random from the many errors in your comment, yes it does.  Because until they use it, they always have one more nuke than a small country can absorb.  It takes exactly one to be able to say that.

    • #27
  28. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Old Bathos:This weird idea that a formalized complete surrender is a valuable “deal” to be pursued has always baffled me. The worst part of a “deal” would be the illusion that we would then be buddies with Iran and thus even slower to notice their depredations around the world, often directed at us. A failure of the “deal” would affirm an implicit state of conflict which at least has the virtue of reflecting reality.

    Yeah, except it’s not baffling – it’s revealing. Lets assume there’s a perspective in which pursuing the deal as Obama and Kerry have done makes rational sense. What is that world model?

    I say their perspective must be that Iran can and should displace the U.S. as the core power of the middle east. They must really believe that we are a source of its trouble and that the area would be better without our influence, and that the downsides to America, the West, and Israel are of no consequence. They’re citizens of the world, Obama and Kerry, not Americans first.

    Can anyone suggest an alternative motivation that explains their actions?

    • #28
  29. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    I’m not certain we are thinking about this the right way.

    I think we need to take a step back and evaluate the situation in light of Obama’s promise of Fundamental Transformation. I think we need to take him at his word. It is the culmination of a Progressive impetus that was first given voice in FDR’s seminal lectures at Milton Academy, gathered together in the 1926 book titled ‘Whither Bound’

    In ‘Whither Bound’ FDR laments that Progressivism has failed to achieve lasting successes because the changes made when they were in power were undone by subsequent administrations. A way must be found to enact change that would be effectively irreversible by subsequent elections. Obama’s Fundamental Transformation is the latest iteration of that theme.

    Domestically, Obamacare, Gay Marriage, and Open Immigration are but three of the highlights. Obamacare, is now effectively locked in. There is no appetite among the our elected representatives to lift a finger to remove it. (Despite their campaign promises.). There might be some tinkering around the edges, but it is more or less here for the duration. Gay Marriage: when has a ‘Right’ once discovered in the Constitution, ever been taken away? Illegal Immigrants, once here on the ground, are incredibly difficult to remove unless they choose to leave. And once a path to citizenship emerges and they can vote … Electoral politics will be altered for 200 years.

    These changes are, if not permanent, incredibly difficult to reverse. This is what Fundamental Transformation looks like at home. What about abroad?

    Obama’s basic premise on world affairs is that America is NOT a force for good. Many of the world’s problems stem from American meddling in the affairs of others. Much of what America has perceived as the ‘bad’ actions of others are, in Omama’s thinking, only their natural reactions to American bullying. Obama could use his two terms as President to withdraw America from a leadership role in world affairs. And he has. But that posture could change with one election. America could go right back to its bullying ways. In the sprit of ‘Whither Bound’ then, how to make the world, or at least part of it, bully-proof?

    The Obama administration has made it abundantly clear that it would like to see Iran emerge as a regional power. To become a counter-weight to Israel on one hand and Saudi Arabia on the other. What better way to permanently cement Iran in this role than see them armed with nuclear weapons? Talk about bully-proof! Obama is convinced of the rightness of his thinking. He does, however, recognizes that his is a minority position.

    If the deal goes through, the path is paved for a nuclear Iran in ten years. If it fails, Iran gets there sooner AND Republicans can be blamed! Israel too! If it weren’t for their vociferous efforts to obstruct a deal, Obama could have made the world safe. It was there for the taking if it weren’t for those evil Republicans and their Israeli friends.

    Heads Iran wins later. Tails Iran wins sooner. And the power balance is permanently shifted. That is Fundamental Change. And its Change Obama believes in….even if we do not.

    • #29
  30. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Barrel:A question and prediction. Question first: there seems to be an almost universal opinion that, regardless of what happens in Vienna, the international will for continuing sanctions is gone. If that is the case, exactly what leverage could we exert on Iran to have them agree to a deal? Clearly their best strategy is to drag the negotiations out as long as possible, continue to sap international will (such as it is) and, in the end, agree to nothing while still banking significant relief.

    I think you are correct about the withering away of sanctions.  It reminds me of the situation in Iraq pre-2003.  Everyone knew that the sanctions were eroding and would go away fairly soon leaving Saddam unleashed.  Remember hearing about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi babies supposedly dying because of the sanctions?  Of course after the invasion no one ever found any evidence of those deaths and many of the same folks who were crying about the harshness of sanctions were denouncing the invasion and asking why we didn’t give the sanctions a chance to work

    • #30
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