Closing In On a Deal with Iran
The big news at the end of the week is that negotiations with Iran may be close to resulting in a deal. Kerry has traveled to Geneva, and cautioned that there are still details to be worked out:
Secretary of State John F. Kerry joined closed-door talks in Geneva on Friday amid indications that Iran and six world powers might be on the verge of a breakthrough in curbing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions.
But Kerry cautioned that the two sides remain divided on some key issues before they can sign a deal that will begin putting limits on Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
Netanyahu has preemptively dismissed anything coming out of Geneva as a “very bad deal.” As Robert Farley and I discussedyesterday, there are three reasons why Israeli officials would publicly attack negotiations with Iran. The first is that they assume that any deal will be unacceptable to them, and are therefore writing off the negotiating process ahead of time. The second is that they want to keep public pressure on to make the deal as tolerable as possible, and the third is that they don’t need to take a risk in endorsing a deal no matter what it involves.
Some combination of the first and third reasons probably explains what Netanyahu thinks he’s doing, but he and his government may be underestimating the danger of isolating Israel on the one issue where Israel enjoys some broader international sympathy. Rejecting the deal out of hand before it has even been finalized gives the U.S. and European governments little reason to listen to Israeli complaints, since the latter are not going to be realistically satisfied, and that will make them much less sympathetic to any Israeli reaction to the deal. Whether he intends to or not, Netanyahu may end up improving the chances that current negotiations will succeed by making the maximalist alternative seem so absurd.
It’s still possible that negotiations could break down and no deal will be reached, but presumably both sides would not be expressing so much confidence in the possibility of an agreement if the gap between the two sides could not be bridged fairly easily.