Negotiators often note that a good agreement can be determined by discontent on both sides. When no one is completely happy, probably both positions are coming out about as good as can be expected. This seems to be the case with the Iran nuclear deal struck this weekend.

            Israel and Saudi Arabia aren’t happy campers. Iran has agreed to what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said would never happen.

But are these terms good for the West? The question remains a matter of perspective. Secretary of State John Kerry is saying that Iran cannot be trusted and the inspection process will tell the tale. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is reserving the right to make a military strike and declaring it is a bad deal. Since Iran has threatened Israel’s existence, Netanyahu’s concern is real and basic.

So, what do we have?

We discovered that the US and Iran have been in secret talks for several months. The exchanges were so clandestine that even Israel had no idea they were going on. These negotiations set the stage for this weekend’s agreement. Iran will curb its nuclear activities in exchange for limited and gradual relief from sanctions.

Critics in Congress point out that these accords exceed the United Nations guidelines. Far from dismantling a nuclear arms program, they only limit what Iran has been doing. On the other hand, Secretary Kerry points out this is only a first step and definite limits must be set or sanctions go back in place.

The one ingredient that gets Iran’s attention is sanctions. As their economy crumbles, the cost of nuclear empowerment becomes too high. The Obama administration has been correct in believing that sanctions could provide a non-military solution to the problem. Today’s issue is whether the United States has stopped too soon.

Critics will continue to point out that the United States let the enemy off the hook. The USA has been known to win the war and lose the negotiations.  These critics are an important part of the process and must keep after the Obama administration. With the healthcare debacle, the administration would be delighted to change the subject and have a victory to declare. The issue that remains is whether the deal is truly a victory.

At this point, America’s key allies are not only upset, but distrust American objectives. Balancing the good and the bad remains an issue. Diplomats will reply that a first step is better than no step at all. Unfortunately, only the future will answer that question.

Stay tuned.

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Filed under Iran, Israel, middle east

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