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Hard-liners and the Nuclear Deal

Abbas Milani and Michael McFaul describe the contours of the debate over the nuclear deal among Iranians in Iran and in the diaspora:

Conservative opponents of the deal tend to emphasize its near-term negative security consequences. They point out that the agreement will roll back Iran’s nuclear program, which was intended to deter an American or Israeli attack, and thereby increase Iran’s vulnerability. They have denounced the system for inspecting Iranian nuclear facilities as an intelligence bonanza for the CIA. And they have issued blistering attacks on the incompetence of Iran’s negotiating team, claiming that negotiators caved on many key issues and were outmaneuvered by more clever and sinister American diplomats [bold mine-DL].

This passage is illuminating in a couple of ways. First, it confirms what close observers of the negotiations have understood for some time, which is that hard-liners in Iran believe they have the most to lose from a nuclear deal and are therefore the most vocal and fiercest opponents of the deal inside Iran. When Obama stated in his speech that Iran hawks in the U.S. and Iranian hard-liners had something in common in opposing the deal, he was stating a rather obvious truth that the Iran hawks have claimed to find offensive. The other point to take from this passage is that hard-liners’ arguments are very similar in their preoccupations and criticisms regardless of their country of origin.

Hard-liners always see a negotiated agreement as a giveaway by their side, they always assume that their incompetent negotiators have been taken to the cleaners by the other side’s savvy and wily team of diplomats, and they can see only the things that their side has conceded while ignoring what the other side has offered. It is the nature of hard-liners to be blind to mutually beneficial agreements because they perceive every interaction in zero-sum terms, and they tend to have an all-or-nothing mentality that makes it impossible for them to acknowledge that a good deal requires some measure of compromise. Of course, hard-liners thrive off of tensions and hostility with other states, so it is predictable that they would be averse to anything that offers the possibility of reducing both.

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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