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The Silliness of Demanding a ‘New’ Deal with Iran

The Bloomberg editors tell [1] Iran’s government to make even greater concessions in order to reduce the country’s isolation:

Opening negotiations with the U.S. for a new nuclear-arms deal — by accepting restrictions on missile development and renouncing hostile behavior in the region, pledging especially not to threaten Israel’s security — would loosen the economic straitjacket in which Iran finds itself.

If there is one thing Iranians have learned from the experience of the last few years, it is that negotiating with the U.S. gets them nothing and costs them a great deal. The nuclear deal was in force for less than two years when the U.S. arbitrarily broke its word and went back on all of its promises. Iran was in compliance the entire time, and it is still in compliance, but that hasn’t earned them the sanctions relief they were promised. It is the deal-breakers in the administration that ought to be offering Iran additional incentives to bring them to the table, since it is the deal-breakers that are responsible for the current state of affairs.

There is no need for a “new” deal when the original nonproliferation agreement is working as intended. As for the additional things Iran is supposed to concede, they have absolutely no reason to offer anything else when they have not even been allowed to receive the full benefits of the agreement that they have been implementing. If Iran is supposed to give up even more, what additional gains can they expect in return? If the answer is that they get nothing more than the same easily-reversed sanctions relief that was taken away from them last year, there is nothing to be negotiated.

Look at things from Iran’s side. What would be the point of expending the effort and political capital necessary to negotiate a new agreement that the U.S. could renege on a few years later? Rouhani and his allies have been burned by the U.S., and U.S. actions have once again made talking to Washington politically radioactive. The editorial talks about Iran’s current economic “straitjacket” as if it were something that Iran’s government chose rather than something that was forced upon them. It is not for Iran’s government to remove a straitjacket imposed on it by others. It is up to the government responsible for illegitimately reimposing sanctions to take it off. We all know that the Trump administration isn’t going to do that, so why pretend that new negotiations are even a possibility under the circumstances?

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3 Comments To "The Silliness of Demanding a ‘New’ Deal with Iran"

#1 Comment By Clyde Schechter On February 11, 2019 @ 4:31 pm

Absolutely right, as usual, Mr. Larison.

Actually, I fear the current situation is a Nash equillibrium. If Iran maintains its current position, whereby it complies with the terms of the deal, it leaves Washington getting what was bargained for without having to give anything in return. Any change in Washington’s strategy would leave it worse off. Similarly, assuming Washington is not going to change its posture, Iran has nothing to gain by changing its own. While you might argue they would be better off throwing off the restrictions of the deal and renouncing it on their end as well, since they (claim to) have no ambitions to develop nuclear weapons anyway, there is no real gain for them in doing that, and it will cost them in terms of their relationships with China, Russia and the EU who are the other still-complying partners to the deal. So on balance it is in Iran’s interests to continue complying.

So it’s a Nash eqillibrium. Nash’s equillibrium may have won him a “Nobel” prize, but in many cases, as in this one, the equillibrium result is a bad one.

#2 Comment By Kouros On February 11, 2019 @ 6:49 pm

Sort of equilibrium… since Iran is continuing its legitimate development of intermediary ballistic missiles. It is these that mostly upset the US and probably Israel. As usual, US/Israel wants to have monopoly on beating people over the head. The genie is out of the bottle…

#3 Comment By Kouros On February 11, 2019 @ 7:57 pm

The narrative will be continued, as with Syria, as with Venezuela with the hope that there will be some sell outs that will in the end do Washington’s bidding. US has always bet on the greediness of people. But it doesn’t work always and everywhere…