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“Chameleonic” Iran Hawks and Iran Diplomacy

Paul Pillar describes the ever-changing, “chameleonic” nature of opposition to diplomacy with Iran:

There also once was much doubt expressed about whether the Iranian leadership would ever want to negotiate seriously. Then when serious negotiations got under way last fall, there was doubt expressed about whether Iran would make significant concessions about its nuclear program. Then when Iran made major concessions in the Joint Plan of Action concluded in November, opposition tactics had to be adjusted again.

The tactics in the wake of the JPA have taken several forms. One is outright misrepresentation about this preliminary agreement, including talk about its unbalanced and disproportionate nature—which is true, except that it was Iran that made disproportionately large concessions [bold mine-DL]. Another is sabotage disguised as support for negotiations, which is what the Kirk-Menendez bill is all about. Another tactic is the moving of goalposts, and in particular the deal-killing demand to end totally any Iranian enrichment of uranium. Yet another is in effect to change the subject and to pretend that the question is not the pros and cons of a prospective nuclear agreement but instead a popularity contest about the Iranian regime—and anything else it may be doing that we don’t like.

The two constants in all of this have been the determination of many Iran hawks to reject any diplomatic solution that might be obtainable and to persist in their opposition at each stage of negotiations despite being proven wrong again and again. Opponents of current negotiations with Iran take for granted that any deal that can be made with Iran represents some sort of capitulation to Iran. It doesn’t matter that this assumption turns reality on its head and requires them to do violence to the facts on a daily basis. Once they have defined anything short of total Iranian capitulation as “appeasement,” misrepresenting other details becomes essential and unavoidable. At the same time, opponents of Iran diplomacy very much wish to avoid being identified as such, and that is where Pillar’s description of them as “chameleonic” is most apt. That is why we are treated to the absurd spectacle of the most predictable supporters of foreign wars complaining bitterly about how much they “resent” being called for favoring a course of action that makes war more likely.

If these hawks were genuinely interested in a diplomatic solution, they would not be making maximalist demands of the other party, but would be prepared to accept a compromise. Because they want to extract concessions that Iran will never give (and which they know Iran will never give), the only explanation that remains is that they wish to undermine and wreck ongoing diplomatic efforts. Despite their best efforts to camouflage themselves and blend in among supporters of Iran diplomacy, it is fairly easy recognize Iran hawks for what they have always been.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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