President Obama and his Administration regularly proclaim that the alternative to a deal with Iran concerning its nuclear facilities is war, and therefore there is a compelling merit to strike a deal (seemingly without much regard to its merit).
I think this is an intellectual trap that must be avoided at all costs. If anything, there is a greater danger to entering into just any deal. After all, once a deal is in effect all conduct will be viewed through the prism of whether it comports with the announced agreement or not.
In other words, if there is no deal then the focus is on what Iran does or does not do, pure and simple. However, with a deal in place, the focus is on whether Iran has violated the deal or not.
As we have seen with the contortions that the Administration has already engaged in to justify or to rationalize Iran’s conduct, it is more than reasonable to expect that great efforts will be made to aver that Iran’s future actions will be found to be within the four walls of whatever agreement is reached.
Therefore, rather than focus on the conduct per se, we will be focused on the terms of the agreement, and how the conduct fits within them. This might seem to be a subtle point, even a distinction without a difference, but I certainly do not think so.
Rather, there will be an overwhelming American-led effort to have the agreement appear to be holding; in defense of that position, great amounts of ink and energy will be expended, while the questionable conduct will in all likelihood continue.
In seeking to address non-compliance, Israel will be accused of acting against an accepted agreement, and will be perceived to be the bad actor. It will then be Israel’s behavior that will be widely excoriated, not the underlying aggressiveness of Iran.
That is a state of affairs that should be avoided at all costs. It should serve as a strong reminder that taking the step of signing a deal is a momentous one, a step that will likely liberate Iran and hamstring those seek real compliance and enforcement.
Unfortunately, given the conduct so far, that reminder is likely to be unheeded.