Former ambassador and presidential advisor, Dennis Ross, this week wrote an important essay about that upcoming June 30th deadline for negotiations between the United States and Iran. I think he brings both great experience and wisdom to this compelling matter, and I would like to share a few of his thoughts.
“With the June 30th date for concluding in the negotiations with Iran, there are those who argue that the deadline is important and must be met. Others see it differently. They worry that it creates pressures on us, with the Iranians prone to use the deadline as a lever to gain concessions given what they may see as our desire for the deal.
Each side has to see that failing to reach the agreement by a deadline truly threatens the possibility of having an agreement. If there is a balance of interest in reaching the agreement, and a comparable fear about the consequences of failing to do so, the deadline can work.
Certainly, if one pays attention to public pronouncements, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has gone out of his way to suggest that his country does not need a deal. He speaks of not giving into the “bullying” of the “arrogant powers”, of not providing access to Iran’s military sites or permitting inspectors to “interrogate” its nuclear scientists; of the Islamic Republic’s need to develop a “resistance economy” to ensure it can tolerate sanctions; and that there are “no commitments” that Iran has made in the framework understanding. The tone of the Obama administration has obviously been different-with the president calling the framework understanding a “historic opportunity” and other leading officials saying that there is no alternative to an agreement-with some conjuring up the fear that war may be the only way to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state if the deal is blocked.
From a negotiator’s standpoint you never want to signal that you need an agreement more than your partner or adversary at the table, and the conventional wisdom at this point is that the administration has not only positioned itself that way but that the Iranians also perceive that to be the case.
Precisely because the framework understanding offers the Iranians a lot: it is essentially a roll-back of sanctions in return for transparency, not a roll-back of sanctions for a roll-back of their nuclear infrastructure”.
What do I think about “the deal?” I believe that the Iranian public clearly wants an end to sanctions that greatly impact upon their quality of life. I also know that Iran has been, and continues to be the supporter of much of the wickedness of our world. I see little reason to trust them, especially if there is a sense that there is no immediate and compelling need to have such a nuclear deal with the United States.
I believe that if anything, the sanctions should be increased, and that the Iranian people need to be given the opportunity to further express their discontent. In short, as Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted all along: “A bad deal is worse than no deal.”