Ya' think?Kerry wants a deal with Iran too much.
Over his 30-year political career, Kerry has long been knocked for delivering more talk than results. Achieving a nuclear deal he first began pursuing even before he became secretary of state could redefine his place in history.
And that, Republican critics, foreign officials, and even some ex-administration officials say, is a big problem. Kerry’s eagerness for a deal, they argue, risks that the Iranians will seduce him into a bad one.
“I don’t know how anyone who has observed Kerry over the past two years would think differently,” says a former administration official who worked on Iran issues.
The concern is that, in search of a historic accomplishment with his name on it, Kerry might succumb to wishful thinking. As a senator, Kerry was dogged by the critique that he authored few major bills over his 30-year career. He won the Democratic nomination in 2004 but lost his bid for the presidency. And since arriving at Foggy Bottom he has been frustrated in his efforts to contain Vladimir Putin in Ukraine and, above all, in his so-far fruitless quest for Middle East peace.
Allies say the conventional wisdom sells short his Senate and Foggy Bottom record, including his recent role brokering a peaceful resolution to Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election amid fears of a civil war.
Of course, many critics of the talks fret that Obama faces much the same pressure as Kerry for a legacy-making achievement, especially in the realm of foreign policy, where Obama has faced an unrelenting string of crises in recent months. A new article in the conservative Weekly Standard attacking Obama’s “capitulation” to Iran notes that Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes has likened an Iran deal to Obamacare in its importance to the administration.
Obama challenged the idea that he is overeager for a nuclear deal in an interview last month with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. “Twenty years from now … [if] Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” Obama said, adding: “I have a personal interest in locking this down.”
But Kerry’s own investment is also huge. He has pursued a nuclear deal since he was a senator, well before the administration’s direct diplomacy got underway: As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry secretly flew to Muscat in November 2011, where he asked the Sultan of Oman to help broker talks between Washington and Tehran. That set the stage for the administration’s first direct contacts with Iranian officials on the nuclear question.
It's unlikely that Iran will back down on any or all of those points - it's far more likely that the US will cave on them. And 20 years from now, Obama will be happily retired at US government expense and Kerry will likely have gone on to greener pastures (or to a much hotter place). They won't care about their 'legacy.'Striking a deal in Vienna this summer will require persuading Iran’s supreme leader to backtrack on his own stated red lines, including on the pace of sanctions relief and access of inspectors to Iranian military sites and nuclear scientists.
Dennis Ross got it right:
Dennis Ross, another former senior Middle East aide under Obama with long experience in diplomatic negotiations said the key to effective deal making is “being able to show you have a genuine interest in a deal but can live without one.”
“We should show little interest in a deadline and focus exclusively on our essential needs,” Ross added. If Iran won’t meet those needs, Ross said, then Kerry should “suggest a pause — but with the proviso that we will also reassess where we are, with the understanding that our positions are likely to harden.”