President Obama’s nuclear “deal framework” with Iran received strong initial approval from the mainstream media. The Washington Post news pages, for example, included several favorable accounts in the days just after word of the framework came down.
Critics of the framework were slow off the mark, it seemed to me. Many consider the negotiations, as Obama has pursued them, so self-evidently misguided as to eliminate the need for analyzing in detail that which they produce.
This may well be true as a matter of logic. However, effective advocacy requires not only focusing on the big picture, but also getting into the weeds.
Fortunately, as Max Boot points out, highly respected analysts (including some Democrats) have spoken out against the deal in recent days. For example, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz made a compelling case against the “framework” in the Wall Street Journal. They argued that the contemplated agreement will be extremely difficult to enforce; that it will be almost impossible to reimpose sanctions if Iran is caught cheating; and that it will increase Iran’s regional power and produce a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Kissinger and Shultz cheated. They used lots of “big words and big thoughts.”
But Aaron David Miller, one of Bill Clinton’s chief Middle East negotiators, made it simple enough even for Marie Harf. He said: “What we know now suggests that the mullahs got the better end of the deal.”
Similarly, William Golston, a former Clinton aide, argued that the “deal” should be significantly strengthened. He went so far as to suggest that Israel has valid concerns and that Obama should relax his opposition to meaningful congressional involvement in vetting a final agreement.
But the biggest blow to Obama’s PR campaign has come not from respected domestic critics, but from the Iranian regime. It has disputed Team Obama’s description of what the framework entails. It has insisted that sanctions must be lifted immediately rather than as Iran begins to comply. And it has insisted that Iranian military facilities will be off-limits to inspectors.
Thus the mullahs have, as Obama would put it, strengthened the hardliners — in this case, American critics of the “framework” who were back on their heels when it was announced. It strikes me that they have greater belief in Obama’s ability to foil his domestic critics than in his willingness to drive a hard bargain with Iran.
If so, they have sized Obama up correctly.