Obama’s Posturing Risks Iran-Nuke Deal

The Obama administration is risking the success of the Iran nuclear negotiations by playing some political theater to appear tough to its Republican and neocon critics in Official Washington, write Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett.

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

As nuclear talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Vienna extend past yet another (largely U.S.-imposed) deadline, the dysfunctionality of the Obama administration’s approach becomes increasingly apparent.

Since April, when the parties announced a set of “parameters” for a final deal, senior administration officials have staked out public positions on the most important unresolved issues that, frankly, are inconsistent with what was agreed in April. These include a U.S. demand for open-ended retention of a conventional arms embargo and other aspects of the United Nations Security Council-authorized sanctions regime.

Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a bilateral discussion in Vienna before Iran-nuclear negotiations on June 30, 2015. (State Department Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a bilateral discussion in Vienna before Iran-nuclear negotiations on June 30, 2015. (State Department Photo)

There has never been any serious prospect that these U.S. positions could actually provide bases for negotiated outcomes. Take, for example, the Obama administration’s demand for open-ended retention of a conventional arms embargo and other aspects of the United Nations Security Council-authorized sanctions regime against Iran. Not only does Tehran object to this demand; Russia and China – like the United States, veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council – do, too.

The Obama administration defined stark stances on the future of UN sanctions and some of the other outstanding issues ostensibly to rebut charges of “weakness” from domestic opponents and to deflect criticism from traditional U.S. allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, that it is “appeasing” Iran.

But, if Obama and his team ultimately want to conclude a deal, they will, at some point, have to retreat from the diplomatically untenable positions they have so publicly assumed – thereby exposing themselves to even stronger political attacks.

This is the (entirely self-generated) dilemma currently looming over…

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