The Iran Deal: Kerry’s Ordeal, Obama’s Challenge

A grueling all-nighter for the Secretary of State, charges of foolishness for the President

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Alexander Klein / AFP / Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech after talks over Iran's nuclear program in Geneva on Nov. 24, 2013

The international bargain struck with Iran here early on Sunday may have been a diplomatic feat — but for John Kerry it was also a physical one. The Secretary of State, who turns 70 next month, arrived in Switzerland shortly past dawn on an overnight flight from Washington, on which he stole at most a few hours’ sleep. By 9 a.m. Kerry had plunged into a nonstop marathon of meetings with fellow Foreign Ministers.

The talks dragged on for hours. The reporters wilted. Kerry worked out of view on the high floors of Geneva’s five-star InterContinental hotel, though he dashed out once to procure chocolates for his wife. A deal wasn’t announced until 3:30 a.m. At 5 a.m., Kerry briefed the press — more than 20 hours after his arrival. Then came several television interviews. He finished at 6:30 a.m. Three hours later, Kerry was in the lobby of his hotel in a fresh suit and tie, a little glassy-eyed, moving a little slowly. “The hard thing is that I have to work today,” he said with a wan smile. Had he slept? “Barely. About an hour.” Then his plane took off, bound for London, where still more meetings awaited him. The odds that Kerry was looking forward to his visit with Libya’s Foreign Minister seemed about nil.

Even for a man who survived a campaign for President, it was brutal.

It’s not clear what took the U.S., Iran and the five other powers here — France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany — so long to craft a deal whose details were not, in the end, very surprising. A standoff over whether Iran enjoys an inherent “right” to enrich uranium, for instance, ended in the agree-to-disagree outcome that many observers had predicted. The deal’s basic limits on Iran’s nuclear activities had been floating in the press for days. It might have been nuclear diplomacy, but it wasn’t rocket science.

But this is not Kerry’s story anymore — it is Barack Obama’s. It’s worth thinking about the long path Obama has trod to get here. When he ran for President in 2008, Obama’s rivals warned he couldn’t be trusted to deal with a nuclearizing Iran. Hillary Clinton would brand him “irresponsible and naive” for saying he’d meet with Iran’s leader. John McCain later called that a sign of his “inexperience and reckless judgment.”

Six years later, Obama’s Iran policy has the potential to reshape the Middle East and define his legacy. If it proves a success, historians might compare it to Richard Nixon’s breakthrough with China. “If Iran seizes this opportunity,” Obama said in remarks on Saturday night, “the Iranian people will benefit from rejoining the international community, and we can begin to chip away at the mistrust between our two nations. This would provide Iran with a dignified path to forge a new beginning with the wider world based on mutual respect.”

But Obama again faces the same charges of naiveté and foolishness that hounded him as a candidate. Never mind that it took real toughness to get here: Iran only came to the bargaining table because Obama imposed punishing sanctions on its economy. His critics say he was desperate for a deal — or a “historic mistake,” as Bibi Netanyahu calls it — that would avoid a potential conflict and give his ailing presidency positive new momentum. It’s still possible those charges will be borne out — if Iran breaks its promises, if the sanctions unravel. It’s also possible that what happened in Geneva was a historic turning point that will allow Obama to put to rest the charge of naiveté once and for all. That would certainly be worth pulling an all-nighter for.

143 comments
reallife
reallife

And the "Chamberlain" goes to...


jmac
jmac

@reallife  Realife - does it hurt as badly as when Obama got Osama bin Ladin?    This one seems to hurt a little bit worse.   This one's historic; the other was just taking out the guy who got us on 9/11.   


AjaxLessome
AjaxLessome

The interim agreement itself places meaningful constraints on several dimensions of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for providing Iran with a degree of financial relief from existing economic sanctions. The accord, better understood as a ceiling than a freeze, also establishes a level of inspections that is far more intrusive than what has existed. The net result will be to slow the pace of Iran's progress towards putting into place the many elements of a nuclear weapons capability, in the process increasing the time and warning the world would have between any Iranian decisions to produce one or more nuclear weapons and when it would actually achieve that goal.

drudown
drudown

Give us a break already. Oh, poor Israel and the GOP don't "like" Diplomacy. What a surprise.

"I'm shocked, offended and...hurt." - Ron Burgundy

The notion that the United States has some "duty" to enforce a Police Power over Afghanistan or Iraq- much less Iran- is wholly outside the ambit of Constitutional powers. There is no prudence is fiscal waste when the next GOP "shut down" approaches in weeks, days and hours.


If the GOP Congress REFUSES to actually follow the Constitution and actually RAISE REVENUE for the Common Defense (see, Article I, Section 8), then it is absolutely unacceptable for "domestic services" to be "sacrificed" so that the US Military can play "policeman" in Arab sovereigns where the People realize ZERO discernible return on US Taxpayer investment to date. None of the Bush Administration's promises or predictions regarding Iraq have proved to be true. 


As such, there is nothing more for our Military and US Taxpayers left to do.


Conspicuously, the SAME GOP opponents of Diplomacy with Iran are notably SILENT with regards to the LIES from the last GOP Administration regarding the run up to war with Iraq, e.g., “we will be greeted as liberators”; “it will be a cakewalk”; “the oil revenues alone will pay for the Iraq war”; “we know for a fact WMDs are there”; “there is no doubt Saddam has nuclear weapons”.

Sorry, these UN Sanctions PREVENT the alleged harm. Let’s focus on spending OUR tax revenue on US PEOPLE and rebuilding America. Enough of this “mission impossible” in useless Arab occupations abroad…

"Do your duty and leave the rest to the gods." – Corneille

Notably, instead of “crying foul” over Secretary of State Kerry’s Diplomatic achievement…perhaps the GOP pundits and “leaders” could expound on…what exactly the GOP has contributed to American politics and society in the last ten years? Please. Do tell.

"No new taxes, ever"? Gee, that's 'wonderful' for the US dollar and our Military supremacy.

"No regulation of Commerce, ever"? Gee, the Wall St. meltdown 'caused' the massive Federal bailouts the GOP whines about.

"No judicial appointments reach a vote, ever"? Gee, that is thwarting the Founding Fathers' system of government.

Tell me, what relevance does this "offer to resign over Snowden" have to do with the NSA program's Unconstitutional dimension? Zero. Zip. Nada.

A better question may be aptly summarized as follows: given Snowden’s disclosures, why is the NSA blatantly violating the 4th Amendment with arguably the largest breach of Privacy in United States' history not ENJOINED and the ILLEGALLY seized evidence destroyed? 


"So much for "strict construction"...- ghost of James Madison


Where is the ACTUAL oversight from the Independent Judiciary?

Oh. 

And that Federal Budget ending the useless Sequester Cuts…immediately.


"It is a strange desire to seek power and lose liberty." - Francis Bacon

po8crg
po8crg

This is a very bad deal for Likud.  The war party that likes to terrify Israelis into voting for them is facing the problem that the wars are ending.  Israelis won't be voting for a war leader but a peacetime government - and Bibi is not even slightly appealing for a peacetime leader.

Of course Likud (which means the current Israeli administration) and their Republican friends are going to come out against this.  When have they ever been in favour of a peace deal?

paulejb
paulejb

Stock tip of the day:

Invest in companies that build fallout shelters.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb Seeing as the Israelis own nukes developed in defiance of world opinion they don't have much of a leg to stand on now do they.

paulejb
paulejb

@po8crg @paulejb 

It's a wonderful deal. Iran was just kidding when they promised to wipe Israel from the face of the planet.

paulejb
paulejb

Munich II

"No, that’s not a facile, partisan jab. What just went down in Geneva is, in fact, a replay of the greatest diplomatic tragedy of the 20th century.

The Munich deal rested on the ridiculous notion that Hitler could be satiated. The new pact builds on the equally ludicrous idea that Iran would give up the means to build a nuclear weapon that will serve as the tip of its foreign-policy spear."

Barack Hussein Obama makes Neville Chamberlain seem Churchillian.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb The National Review are idiots for publishing this. Hitler was demanding a large chunk of Czechoslovakia. What territorial concession is Iran demanding? Germany had just fought a war of aggression 20 years before that, when was the last time Iran started a war?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb @mantisdragon91 Would that be because we deposed their previous government and put in power a corrupt regime so that we could get better buy rates on their oil.

paulejb
paulejb

Barry 0 gives away the store on Iran nukes but he will not take one step back on the much despised ObamaCare.

paulejb
paulejb

This appeasement of Iran will mean that Saudi Arabia will be determined to arm itself with nukes and the Saudis have ample oil revenue to quickly purchase the weapons.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@paulejb I think they are working out a deal with Pakistan. Start of nuclear arms spread in the Middle East. If Saudi Arabia will do it, can Egypt and Turkey be far behind ? The damage that Obama and his equally incompetent Sec of State not only to the US but the world will be enormous. This is what the world looks like without a strong American presence.

paulejb
paulejb

@ReneDemonteverde @paulejb 

The world is reverting to the "dark ages" that followed the fall of the Roman Empire. Barack Obama, more and more, is resembling Romulus Augustus, the last Roman Emperor in the West.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@paulejb @ReneDemonteverde Agree. But while the Roman Empire lasted thousand of years, America took only a couple of centuries before abdicating its place. But all the ingredients are there. Open borders, integration of non Romans into the military, loss of morality and patriotism social restructuring, political correctness {although liberals might disagree} hedonistic lifestyle among others.

paulejb
paulejb

@ReneDemonteverde @paulejb 

Santayana well knew whereof he spoke.

paulejb
paulejb

@ReneDemonteverde @paulejb 

Liberals are convinced that history began on January 20, 2009. Nothing of importance ever happened before that date.