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Davidson writes: "If a nuclear deal with Iran succeeds, it will be in large part because the President avoided the temptations of resentment and self-pity."

President Obama. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty)
President Obama. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty)


On Iran, Obama Gets His Breakthrough

By Amy Davidson, The New Yorker

03 April 15

 

If a nuclear deal with Iran succeeds, it will be in large part because the President avoided the temptations of resentment and self-pity.

ALSO SEE: Iran Agrees to Framework of Nuclear Deal

t is a good deal,” President Barack Obama said on Thursday, after the framework of an agreement to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb was announced. If it is good—and that will depend on getting the final settlement done and signed between now and June—it will be in large part because the President avoided the temptations of resentment and self-pity. And Republicans in Congress will have failed to thwart it because they embraced them. The G.O.P. did everything that it could to scuttle this deal. Forty-seven Republican senators sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader that will go down in the annals of diplomatic sabotage, and made it harder for American negotiators to demand a deal that the White House itself would find acceptable. They did so even though their ostensible goal—keeping Iran from becoming a nuclear power—was the same as the President’s. It would have been easy, on Tuesday, when the original deadline for the talks expired, for the American negotiators to walk away—and for Obama to blame it all on the Republicans and just say that they had made it too difficult to reach an agreement. He’s done that in the past. (Guantánamo.) But the President told John Kerry—whose efforts he referred to in his statement on Thursday as “tireless, and I mean tireless”—to keep going, and Kerry and his fellow diplomats seem to have come up with something that, while not perfect, does look pretty good.

“Found solutions. Ready to start drafting immediately,” Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, tweeted just before noon. In the past few days, when it looked like things might not work out, there was talk of something that would be less than a success but not quite a failure: a vague outline, a commitment to getting it right, and the hope that, somehow, it would all fall into place by June. As Zarif suggested, that is not what this deal is. It has more detail than most observers expected, which will hopefully mean that the drafting of the actual accord will truly be a technical process and not a deferred round of diplomacy. The deal, which is between Iran and the P5+1 (the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany) covers all the life stages of a bomb. For example, during the next twenty-five years, inspectors will be able to enter mines known to contain raw uranium ore. One sticking point had been Iran’s unwillingness to completely do away with any of its existing facilities; the negotiators had talked about this as a matter of national pride. But the Arak nuclear plant, which was designed with the sort of reactor that could produce plutonium for bombs, was not one whose operations could simply be slowed down—there’d still be plutonium. So under the deal, according to the White House’s fact sheet, the “original core of the reactor” would be “destroyed or removed from the country.” A different, safer sort of reactor would be put in its place. There would still be an Arak facility but, from a proliferation perspective, it would be a shell of itself; this is the sort of middle territory that diplomacy can find. Arak was one of the targets that John Bolton, the U.S. representative to the U.N. under George W. Bush, suggested bombing in an Op-Ed in the Times last week.

Centrifuges can be used to produce highly enriched uranium for bombs. The deal will reduce the number of centrifuges that Iran has, from close to twenty thousand now to just over six thousand—keeping only its oldest models, rather than the newest and best ones—and for the next ten years it will only be able to operate five thousand of them. Stockpiles of enriched uranium that Iran already has will be reduced—with the excess sent abroad—and kept at the lower level for fifteen years.

Iran gets something for all this: the removal of American and international sanctions when it becomes clear—and inspectors verify—that it is keeping its side of the bargain. How to ascertain exactly when this happens may be a point still to be negotiated. But a robust part of the deal, from an American perspective, is its “snap-back” provisions. Sanctions will not actually be removed but suspended, and what the fact-sheet refers to as their “architecture” will remain in place for quick reactivation if necessary. (“And while it is always a possibility that Iran may try to cheat on the deal in the future, this framework of inspections and transparency makes it far more likely that we’ll know about it if they try to cheat,” Obama said.) Also, the non-nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, for things like its support of terrorism, will remain.

That raises an objection to the deal: Iran will still be Iran. Twenty minutes after Zarif’s tweet signalled a breakthrough, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted, “Any deal must significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear capabilities and stop its terrorism and aggression.” It was never likely, as desirable as it would be, that Kerry was going to get the Iranians to sign something saying that they would no longer be aggressive. It would have been a little like demanding that there could be no missile-reduction deal with the Soviet Union until the Russians stopped quoting Lenin all the time. Having this deal needn’t, shouldn’t, and surely won’t mean never challenging Iran about anything else again.

There are multiple time frames in the deal: no enrichment research at the Fordow facility for fifteen years; no inspections at bellows-production facilities for twenty years; adherence to certain enhanced nonproliferation protocols forever. One of the criticisms of the deal, in the past few months, has been that it would “sunset” in ten years—that Iran would get a free decade without sanctions, grow rich and strong, and then start building a bomb the moment that the time was up. Kerry, speaking in Switzerland, said that there was “no sunset.” That was somewhat a matter of semantics; there are, at least, mini-eclipses at certain intervals. But it is true that significant aspects of the deal have an indefinite life. (And that may be more than can be said about the Iranian regime itself, which could change in less time than it takes to get inspectors out of the uranium mines.)

Obama said on Thursday that the current estimates indicated that Iran could have the materials for a bomb, if it wanted to, in two to three months. Under the deal, that “break out” time—the minimum post-cheating bomb-acquisition interval—would be at least a year, for the next decade. He continued, “So when you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East? Is it worse than doing what we’ve done for almost two decades with Iran moving forward with its nuclear program and without robust inspections? I think the answer will be clear.” Those critics talk as though it’s just as clear that he’s wrong. John Boehner, on Thursday, said that the deal appeared to be “an alarming departure” from what Obama had said his goals were. Obama didn’t agree.

“Iran is not going to simply dismantle its program because we demand it to do so,” the President said. “That’s not how the world works. And that’s not what history shows us.” Is that cynicism or optimism? The world is not a place where you can simply look tough and your enemies will crumble; but it is a place where, with some work and some luck, you can try to get something done.

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+15 # tedrey 2015-04-03 09:57
Now shall we do something about another 'rogue nation' which pursues aggressive expansion, supports terrorist activities, and destabilizes the Near East. At least, to be fair about it, we should negotiate the abolition of their nuclear arsenal also.
 
 
+19 # wipster 2015-04-03 10:04
As I watched the young Iranians and middle-class flash peace signs yesterday, I hope beyond hope that this deal is approved and implemented. It may be the first step towards true peace in the Middle East.
 
 
-15 # Roland 2015-04-03 13:37
Why one would think that this deal would bring peace to the Middle East is beyond me.
 
 
+13 # reiverpacific 2015-04-03 15:59
Quoting Roland:
Why one would think that this deal would bring peace to the Middle East is beyond me.


Of course it is.
Methinks that, for many years, thou hast "eaten of the root that takes reason prisoner".
You wanna leave it to Bibi Nuttyahoo, the Neocons and the TeaThuglican warmongers?
D'YOU have a solution or is war y'r own preferred flavor as long as you don't have to fight in it?
Why anybody would want a war, anywhere, is beyond ME!
 
 
-13 # Roland 2015-04-03 18:18
I see you and Mr. Obama resort to false dilemma gambit that Americans have only two choices—his agreement or war.
 
 
+6 # dbrize 2015-04-03 20:01
Quoting Roland:
I see you and Mr. Obama resort to false dilemma gambit that Americans have only two choices—his agreement or war.


No, the false gambit is that the crazies care at all about an agreement.

The neocons want war because they have the deluded belief we will send in ground troops after bombing fails and win the war for Israel. Their friends on the religious right are even more delusional in their eschatological desire to fulfill the biblical "final solution".

All this "better agreement" nonsense is smoke and mirrors from neoconservative /rr Wonderland.
 
 
-8 # Roland 2015-04-03 20:44
Some of the crazies might not care about an agreement. Some of the crazies believe that this framework will stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

I don’t believe in any of the religious reasons you mentioned above, yet I still believe like many conservatives, who I assume you don’t listen to, that this agreement is seriously flawed and is being negotiated by someone (Obama) who is desperate for an agreement - any agreement to push the problem down the road. Have you noticed more and more liberals questioning this agreement?
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2015-04-04 11:25
Quoting Roland:
I see you and Mr. Obama resort to false dilemma gambit that Americans have only two choices—his agreement or war.


You haven't answered my question as usual; D'you have a solution?
 
 
+12 # reiverpacific 2015-04-03 11:26
Hope the 47 warmongers who sent poison-pen letters to the Iranians and Bibi Nutty-Yahoo, are havin' fits of the vapors, sleepless, tormented nights, puking and shootin' up in their mean-spirited li'l boxed-in worlds.
Ech, probably not -that would mean that they had feelings!
 
 
-15 # Roland 2015-04-03 11:46
“All this would be somewhat reassuring if the U.S. were negotiating a nuclear deal with Holland or Costa Rica—that is, a law-abiding state with no history of cheating on nuclear agreements. But that’s not Iran.

Mr. Obama made much of a “snap-back” provision that would reimpose sanctions if Iran is caught cheating. But that too is vague. Would Russia and China be able to veto that at the United Nations? And what if Iran is suspected of cheating? The framework says that “a dispute resolution process will be specified,” which would allow any of the deal’s signatories “to seek to resolve disagreements.” That sounds suspiciously like a U.N. committee, perhaps of Iran’s peers or protectors. And this is before sanctions could be “snapped back.”

it was dispiriting to hear Mr. Obama resort to his usual false dilemma gambit that Americans have only two choices—his agreement or war.

The truth, contrary to the President, is that the critics of his Iran framework do not want war. But they also don’t want a phony peace to lead to a nuclear Middle East that leads to a far more horrific war a decade from now. That’s why this agreement needs a thorough vetting and genuine debate.” Above are highlights from a WSJ article

Anyone want to bet the next deadline isn’t extended due to Iran dragging it’s feet?
 
 
+12 # dbrize 2015-04-03 13:50
Roland:
Thanks for the War Street Journal account. Of course it is little surprise at how promptly the neocon War Machine for Armageddon cranks up it's "concerns".

WAPO and NYT's can't be far behind and last evening it took only seven minutes of airtime for Mark ("apoplectic? you ain't seen apoplectic til I've done it) Levin to mention Hitler, Munich, and Putin the Mad.

Now take a deep breath or two and remember the axiom of your old pal, the Gipper, "trust, but verify".

Actually one of the better of his amiable sayings and frankly, I think he performed rather well at Reykjavik. Matter of fact, it represented the last meaningful arms reduction treaty we've seen.

Sorry, I digress.

This "agreement" is going to be verifiable and well in keeping with the famous (well, infamous to your guys) NIE 2007 report in which every one of our 16 intelligence agencies confirmed that which has been validated annually ever since, that Iran had and has stopped it's nuclear weapons program.

Consider that the public does not support bombing or invading Iran. Therefore, negotiation is the only game in town and Obama and John Kerry are hardly pacifists.

Trust and verify old boy, sleep well tonight, if we can keep your guys from dispensational impulses, peace is on the way.
 
 
-12 # Roland 2015-04-03 18:27
That is one of the problems with this agreement—verif ication. It is not as you say, this agreement or war.

What is needed is a better agreement with stronger verification, born from a desire by Iran to sign it. This desire is not created by relaxing the sanctions in October of 2013. A year and a half later Iran has not felt it necessary to bring this to an end. It has been postponed again. Iran is not motivated and it is our fault. They are pulling our chain. We look stupid and weak.
 
 
+6 # dbrize 2015-04-03 19:01
Quoting Roland:
That is one of the problems with this agreement—verification. It is not as you say, this agreement or war.

What is needed is a better agreement with stronger verification, born from a desire by Iran to sign it. This desire is not created by relaxing the sanctions in October of 2013. A year and a half later Iran has not felt it necessary to bring this to an end. It has been postponed again. Iran is not motivated and it is our fault. They are pulling our chain. We look stupid and weak.


Roland, I will reassure you again. There is no evidence, zilch, nada, none, that Iran has been working on a nuclear weapons program. You ignore that which you don't want to hear. Our NIE estimate from 2007 has been validated every year since.

What does John Bolton, Bibi or any other neocon know that proves this wrong? Nothing.

And, if all you want is a "better" agreement, why have your friends been so adamant that we need to bomb Iran? They haven't been at all interested in an agreement until one actually became possible.

Neocons are crunchy treats but sock puppets quickly stale.
 
 
-5 # Roland 2015-04-03 19:53
Again, the WSJ -
Consider the Additional Protocol, a 1997 addendum to the Nuclear Non-Proliferati on Treaty that was meant to expand the IAEA’s ability to detect and monitor clandestine nuclear activities. Iran signed the Additional Protocol in December 2003, about the time Saddam Hussein was pulled from his spider hole. The signature meant nothing: By September 2005 the IAEA reported that Iran wasn’t meeting its commitments, and Iran abandoned the pretense of compliance by February 2006.

Now Iran has promised to sign the Protocol again. But as former IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen observed in a recent paper for the Iran Task Force, “contrary to what is commonly observed, the AP does not provide the IAEA with unfettered access.” Mr. Heinonen adds that the agency “needs ‘go anywhere, anytime’ access to sites, material, equipment, persons, and documents.”

The framework lacks this crucial “anywhere, anytime” provision,
 
 
+5 # rhgreen 2015-04-03 19:43
Cheating in agreements between nations? The US ought to be expert in that, eh? Ask all the American Indian nations that the US signed treaties with. Ask Mexico. Ask the Philippines. Ask several Caribbean nations. For that matter ask Iran, whose democratically elected government (the first in the region) the CIA overthrew in 1953, a few years after President Truman received and lauded Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. And when Iraq attacked Iran in 1980 the US helped Iraq including with chemical weapons. Oh, sure, Roland, let's have the US lecture Iran about being a law-abiding state whose word is worth something. Not the appropriate lecturer, Roland.
 
 
-7 # Roland 2015-04-03 20:34
How does your rant affect the fact that Iran will cheat and have a nuclear weapon?
 
 
+6 # dbrize 2015-04-03 21:02
Quoting Roland:
How does your rant affect the fact that Iran will cheat and have a nuclear weapon?


Why do you refer to his historically accurate, verifiable statements as a "rant"? And then follow with a prediction based wholly on personal conjecture and try to pass it off as "fact".

Stick with cut and paste, you are even worse when you ad lib.
 
 
-3 # Roland 2015-04-04 07:23
So you believe Iran will negotiate in good faith. Hilarious On what do you base that?
 
 
+3 # dbrize 2015-04-04 12:18
Quoting Roland:
So you believe Iran will negotiate in good faith. Hilarious On what do you base that?


Iran will negotiate in their best interests. As will the US and our European partners. That is a "fact".

And it is not an unimportant fact that our European "friends" want this agreement to work.

Your neocon inspired fears are overwrought, irrational and deluded. That is my opinion.

Allow me to reinforce why my opinion is closer to truth than yours. Here are some "facts" that I seriously doubt you are aware:

Persian culture is historically peaceful with a well educated civil society. This is not the stuff of suicidal impulses.

Iran has a substantial history of decent relations with Israel.

Today, there exist 20 or so synagogues in Iran where Jews worship freely. Eleven in Tehran. There is a Jewish hospital, library and a Jewish member of the Iranian parliament.

Shortly after the revolution, Khomeini met with Jewish and Christian leaders and issued a fatwa protecting both groups. Jews work in both government and private positions in Iran.

Does any of this make for Nirvana for Jews in Iran? Of course not. But it most certainly speaks volumes to the irrational trumped up fears being projected by you and your cohorts.

You have learned nothing from twelve years of wars have you? Time to give peace a chance.
 
 
+1 # reiverpacific 2015-04-05 19:26
Quoting dbrize:
Quoting Roland:
So you believe Iran will negotiate in good faith. Hilarious On what do you base that?


Iran will negotiate in their best interests. As will the US and our European partners. That is a "fact".

And it is not an unimportant fact that our European "friends" want this agreement to work.

Your neocon inspired fears are overwrought, irrational and deluded. That is my opinion.

Allow me to reinforce why my opinion is closer to truth than yours. Here are some "facts" that I seriously doubt you are aware:

Persian culture is historically peaceful with a well educated civil society. This is not the stuff of suicidal impulses.

Iran has a substantial history of decent relations with Israel.

Today, there exist 20 or so synagogues in Iran where Jews worship freely. Eleven in Tehran. There is a Jewish hospital, library and a Jewish member of the Iranian parliament.

Shortly after the revolution, Khomeini met with Jewish and Christian leaders and issued a fatwa protecting both groups. Jews work in both government and private positions in Iran.

Does any of this make for Nirvana for Jews in Iran? Of course not. But it most certainly speaks volumes to the irrational trumped up fears being projected by you and your cohorts.

You have learned nothing from twelve years of wars have you? Time to give peace a chance.


Excellent; I've studied the history of Islam and the "Fertile Crescent" and you sum it up nicely.
 
 
+2 # rhgreen 2015-04-04 19:02
Quoting Roland:
How does your rant affect the fact that Iran will cheat and have a nuclear weapon?

I have two answers to that; (1) Iran unlike Israel is already subject to IAEA inspections and this agreement will increase them; and (2) I personally don't see why Iran ahouldn't be able to have nuclear weapons as long as we tolerate Israel, Pakistan, and India having them. We shouldn't of course but I don't see any reason to single out Iran. As for cheating and threats, how many UN resolutions has Israel broken, and how many threats to make an unprovoked attack on Iran has it made? Not to mention the fact that Israel is not subject to IAEA inspections, which it couldn't be given that it won't even admit that it has nuclear weapons and delivery systems, which everyone knows that it has. That's called developing nuclear weapons secretly, Roland, which is a violation regardless of which country does it. Come off the "Israel right or wrong" bit, Roland.
 
 
+8 # fenox 2015-04-03 13:11
Roland, the hot talk about Iraq and it's nuclear arsenal was twelve years ago, remember? American republicans telling the world " they were sure, and the UN surveillance wrong.
How stupid they looked with their "mission accomplished" and nothing was found. And each year since with more terrorists, more extremists and greater power for Iran.....they looked more stupid and more ridiculous.
And you Roland would like to start that theater all over again?
 
 
-11 # Roland 2015-04-03 13:34
Doesn’t sound like you remember the genesis for the "Mission Accomplished “ sign.

Should I assume you think Iran is a responsible country and that they should have a nuclear weapon? Should I also assume you are against the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty that Iran signed and violated?

If you want to see stupid, look at our foreign policies over the last 6 years.

You seem to be forgetting that the world thought Iraq had WMD’s. Including France who tried to block us from going in. And let’s remember the high moral ground France sat on. How many in that administration illegally got money from the Food for Oil program? And what about the deal the Total oil company would have had, had France been successful in preventing the invasion.
 
 
+4 # tedrey 2015-04-03 19:32
I think what's really been going on in these negotiations is that five nations have been giving the United States every opportunity to prove that its claims that Iran is treacherous and irresponsible aren't just another case like Bush's Iraq where all the evidence was faked or non-existent. I think the present agreement is due to the fact that to the other negotiating countries Iran was more credible than the US. Perhaps some day we'll find out.

Note: I seem to have used up all my commas this evening. Apologies.
 
 
-7 # Roland 2015-04-03 19:56
Ever hear the saying—show me your friends and I will show you your future?
What about Iran’s friendship with North Korea?
 
 
0 # reiverpacific 2015-04-08 11:48
Quoting Roland:
Ever hear the saying—show me your friends and I will show you your future?
What about Iran’s friendship with North Korea?

From y'r rather impertinent and unvaryingly status-quo-mout hpiece reactionary posts, you have one helluva future, maybe even a place reserved on the Dimwits Bush compound for War Criminals in N.E. Paraguay.
Better be careful; with "Friends" like that, who despise you as one of the "Little people" just as much as any progressive, especially activists types, you don't need any more enemies!
 
 
+6 # CliffyLee 2015-04-03 23:37
You seem to be forgetting that there were impassioned speeches given on the Floor of the United States Senate arguing that Iraq had no WMD (besides poisonous gas that the United States had given Saddam). And the weapons inspectors said they had no WMD. And lots of us thought it was all BS. Turns out Bush and Cheney knew there were no WMD.
 
 
+1 # geraldom 2015-04-03 23:42
I don't understand the leaders of Iran for agreeing to this deal or even negotiating it. The Republican Party controls both houses of Congress, and with the Republican Party now in control of the electoral system in the majority of the states and with their almost absolute control of the federal bench, most especially SCOTUS, and with the mandatory use of corrupt and fraudulent e-voting machines that favor the Repub candidates and probably even greater Dem voter suppression than occurred in 2014, the chances of the Dems regaining control of either house come 2016 is rather slim at best, most especially the U.S. House.

And, if the worst happens where a Repub candidate wins the presidency in 2016, then this deal that Obama has made with Iran can and probably will be negated. Israel, under Benjamin Netanyahu, will then be given license by the U.S. to attack Iran and no one will be able to stop it, not the U.N. under Ban Ki-Moon, who is a U.S. puppet, or anyone else. The only country that could prevent this from happening if the Republican Party takes control of all three branches of govt is Russia by proactively protecting Iran from both Israel and the United States, but, based on Russia’s actions (or inactions) in protecting Iran from the very beginning when Israel and the U.S. were threatening an attack on Iran early on if it did not reduce its Uranium enrichment program, I don’t see that happening.

Iran may have just screwed itself as Iraq did under Saddam.
 
 
+1 # geraldom 2015-04-04 00:48
If the following article is accurate and correct, then Iran truly screwed itself over. The leaders completely capitulated to the western powers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/03/bani-sadr-iran-nuclear-deal_n_7001336.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592

Based on this article Iran has agreed to submit itself for the next 20 years to highly intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency whose head, Director General Yukiya Amano, is another puppet of the United States, and that's just to maintain a suspension of the sanctions, not to end them.
 
 
+1 # tedrey 2015-04-04 06:10
"On 1 December 2009, Amano began his first term as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency.[10]
In November 2010, British newspaper The Guardian reported on a U.S. diplomatic cable originating a year earlier in Vienna and supplied to the newspaper by WikiLeaks, detailing a meeting between Amano and an American ambassador. The author of the cable summarized a statement by Amano in which the latter offered that he "was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program."[11] In March 2012, Amano was accused by several former senior IAEA officials of pro-western bias, over-reliance on unverified intelligence and of sidelining sceptics."

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/mar/22/nuclear-watchdog-iran-iaea

I think the fact that this has long been well reported in all the world except the U.S. helps explain why the other five negotiators found the agreement a good deal. They see more reason to trust Iran than to trust the U.S.
 
 
+1 # geraldom 2015-04-04 08:55
If Iran has to suffer through 20 years of intrusive inspections among so many other things that this deal brings up, then Iran should never have agreed to it. I fear more if Saudi Arabia were to develop a bomb than Iran, and the United States and its western puppet allies will say nothing nor prohibit such a thing from happening with Saudi Arabia.
 

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