How Extension Benefits Foes of a Nuclear Deal
Negotiations with Iran are being extended into next year in order to provide more time to reach a final agreement on the nuclear issue. However, as John Hudson reports, that additional time provides opponents of any deal new opportunities as well:
The failure of Barack Obama’s administration to secure a deal to restrain Iran’s nuclear program by Monday’s self-imposed deadline hands a significant gift to hard-liners in both countries: a seven-month window to criticize, and potentially sabotage, a final deal between Iran and the West.
There is a reason why Netanyahu was pleased by news of the extension, and it isn’t because he has suddenly become a supporter of diplomacy with Iran. He guesses that the longer the negotiations wear on, the more pressure opponents of any deal can bring to bear on the administration. The more time that it takes to reach a deal, the more likely it is that opponents can spoil the negotiations by pushing for new punitive measures against Iran. Unfortunately, he’s probably not wrong. While it is better to have extended the talks and kept the possibility of a deal alive, the fact that the talks had to be extended gives opponents of any deal an opening to reject further diplomacy as a waste of time. They are wrong about this, but the longer that the negotiations take without conclusion the harder it becomes to argue that the talks are still worth pursuing.
The changed composition of the Senate in the new year makes it much more likely that a new sanctions bill will pass both houses of Congress. Even though there presumably won’t be enough support for such a bill to override a veto, majority support in Congress for additional sanctions still risks derailing a deal by proving to Iran that the U.S. won’t be able to follow through on promised sanctions relief. While this was true of the aborted push for new sanctions earlier on, the difference next year is that the new Senate leadership won’t care about derailing negotiations. On the contrary, the new leadership will welcome a vote on such a bill. A Republican majority was always likely to try to undermine a deal with Iran once it was concluded, but the delay in reaching a deal has made that task that much easier. That doesn’t mean that a good deal with Iran can’t be had, and it’s no guarantee that the saboteurs are going to succeed, but a successful conclusion to the negotiations just became much more difficult.