US-Iran War Averted by Agreement to Negotiate on Nuclear Enrichment

The decade-long Neoconservative plot to take the United States to war against Iran appears to have been foiled.

In response for a loosening of sanctions, worth some $7 billion to Iran, President Hasan Rouhani undertook to freeze enrichment activities at their present level. He also pledged to cast Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 19.75% for the production of medical isotopes in a form that makes it impossible to further enrich it. Nor will Iran produce more 19.5% low enriched uranium. (Uranium enriched to 95% is suitable for a bomb, and the Western diplomats figure that 19.75% is closer to 95% than is the stock of uranium enriched to 3.5% to serve as fuel for the three nuclear power plants at Bushehr. Iran also agreed to do no further work on its proposed heavy-water reactor at Arak. (Heavy-water reactors produce plutonium, with which bombs can easily be constructed).

Iran’s nuclear facilities have been being inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the inspectors have repeatedly certified that no uranium has been diverted to weapons purposes. This agreement will increase the frequency of the inspections and widen their scope somewhat.

The agreement did not recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium, but Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the right was implicit in the agreement (which does not forbid enrichment to 3.5% for reactor fuel) and in the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In a press conference on Sunday morning, Iranian president Hasan Rouhani reaffirmed that he understands the agreement to recognize Iran’s right to enrich. But he strongly reaffirmed that Iran does not want and never will want to build an atomic bomb (nuclear weapons are forbidden in Shiite law according to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fatwas, but it has been hard to get suspicious Westerners to take these theocratic pronouncements seriously).

The agreement is actually an agreement to negotiate, and the hard bargaining is yet to come. The terms agreed upon are more confidence-building measures than anything else.

In 2003, the Neocon chickenhawks, most of whom had never worn a uniform or had a parent who did, joked that “everyone wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran.” When people have to talk about being “real men,” it is a pretty good sign that they are 98-pound weaklings.

The “everyone” who wanted to go to Baghdad was actually just the Neocons and their fellow travelers. Most of the latter were hoodwinked by the Neocon/Cheney misinformation campaign blaming Saddam Hussein of Iraq for 9/11. A majority of Democratic representatives in the lower house of Congress voted against the idea of going to war. The Iraq War, trumped up on false pretenses and mainly to protect the militant right wing in Israel from having a credible military rival in the region and to put Iraqi petroleum on the market to weaken Saudi Arabia, cost the United States nearly 5000 troops, hundreds more Veterans working as contractors, and probably $3 or $4 trillion– money we do not have since our economy has collapsed and hasn’t recovered except for wealthy stockholders. Perhaps George W. Bush could paint for us some dollars so that we can remember what they used to look like when we had them in our pockets instead of his billionaire friends (many of them war profiteers) having them in theirs.

Binyamin Netanyahu was a cheerleader for the Iraq War. He is now deeply wounded that the US is making peace with Iran. He seems to see the US as his personal doberman pinscher, which he is used to siccing on his rivals in the region whenever they complain about his aggressive land thefts.

The irony is that in early 2003, the reformist Iranian government of then-President Mohammad Khatami had sent over to the US a wide-ranging proposal for peace. After all, Baathist Iraq was Iran’s deadliest enemy. It had invaded Iran in 1980 and fought an 8-year aggressive war in hopes of taking Iranian territory and stealing its oil resources. Now the US was about to overthrow Iran’s nemesis. Wouldn’t it make sense for Washington and Tehran to ally? Khatami put everything on the table, even an end to hostilities with Israel.

The Neoconservatives threw the Iranian proposal in the trash heap and mobilized to make sure there was no rapprochement with Iran. David Frum, Bush’s speech-writer, consulted with eminence grise Richard Perle (then on a Pentagon oversight board) and Irv Lewis “Scooter” Libby (vice presidential felon Richard Bruce Cheney’s chief of staff), and they had already inserted into Bush’s 2002 State of the Union speech the phrase the “axis of evil,” grouping Iran with Iraq and North Korea. Iran had had sympathy demonstrations for the US after 9/11, and, being a Shiite power, feared and hated al-Qaeda (Sunni extremists) as much as Washington did. But the Neoconservatives did not want a US-Iran alliance against al-Qaeda or against Saddam Hussein. Being diplomatic serial killers, they saw Iran rather as their next victim.

All through the Cheney-Bush administration, repeated leaks from the Pentagon to Sy Hersh and other investigative journalists warned that machinations were afoot to draw the US into a war against Iran, as an outgrowth of the illegal and aggressive attack on and occupation of Iraq. The Neocons plotted against the lives of our children until their last day in office, in January of 2009.

After seeing what Bush did to Iraq, Tehran ramped up its nuclear enrichment program, in hopes of making the point that if the US looked like it might try to invade (which it often looked like), Iran might go for broke and come up with a small nuclear device. In 2003 when Khatami made the peace proposal, Iran had just declared a small set of nuclear experiments. As of 2006, it began serious nuclear enrichment activities, though UN inspectors have never found evidence of a nuclear weapons program.

As Secretary of State John Kerry pointed out Saturday night, if the Bush administration had accepted iran’s 2003 proposal, the rancor, saber-rattling, sanctions and the rapid advances in Iran’s nuclear program could have been avoided.

President Barack Obama came into office wanting a diplomatic deal with Iran. He addressed “the Islamic Republic of Iran” on the occasion of the Persian New Year (the vernal equinox in mid-March). Those plans were derailed, first by the outbreak of domestic unrest in Iran in summer of 2009, and then by hard liners around Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who backed out of commitments made at negotiations in fall of 2009.

After that, US-Iranian relations got worse and worse. The US Congress, goaded on by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other Israel lobbies, imposed increasingly crippling sanctions on Iran. Ultimately, the US attempted to use its favored position in financial markets to stop Iran from selling its petroleum on the international market. It is a financial blockade, and blockades are acts of war. I have been worried for the past year and a half that this financial and oil blockade would lead to hostilities. All it would take would be for a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to lose a cousin who could not afford medicine any more and to go off the deep end and order an attack on US facilities in Iraq or the Gulf. The very severe sanctions the US put on Iraq in the 1990s in many ways lead to the Iraq War.

Now, the tides of war are ebbing. Assuming that the negotiations over the next six months are successful, a compromise will be reached whereby Iran’s “break-out capacity” or ability to construct a nuclear weapon will be constrained, and whereby the international blockade on Iranian commerce will be lifted. President Rouhani, elected as a mild reformist this summer, is eager to nail down a deal before his own hard liners have time to derail the negotiations. President Obama, eager for some sort of achievement for his second term, has every reason to accept a deal on Iran that involves a heavy inspection regime and gives reasonable assurance that Iran is not weaponizing its nuclear enrichment program.

Republican critics of the deal in the US Congress, who say no to everything, said no to this negotiation as well. They accused Iran of being the world’s primary backer of terrorism.

Really? The GOP backed the Mujahidin and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Contras in Nicaragua, the MEK in Iraq and Iran, and are backing the extremist Sunni rebels in Syria. They aren’t even skittish about allying with al-Qaeda affiliates, even today!

Hamas has largely broken with Iran. The only “terrorist” group Iran is backing is Hizbullah, which isn’t a terrorist group but a party-militia recognized by the Lebanese government as its national guard for its southern border, a border repeatedly breached by Israeli attacks (including an attempt to annex 10% of Lebanon, with a 20-year military occupation).

Even Israeli military intelligence sees some potential benefits to the agreement.

Besides, the US has negotiated and reached agreements with lots of authoritarian governments that support the use of terror, as long as it is right-wing death squads. It had even made up with Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, a serial terrorism-supporter, and put him on the CIA payroll.

The only question here is whether the agreement is in American interests. It is. Ever more severe sanctions increasingly risked war with a country three times as big geographically and 2.5 times as populous as Iraq (the American occupation of which did not go well). That danger is now receding, which can only be a good thing. And if negotiations and UN inspections can indeed succeed in allowing Iran a civilian enrichment program while forestalling a weapons program, it is a breakthrough for the whole world and an important chapter in the ongoing attempts to limit proliferation.

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62 Responses

  1. Thanks you for this neat summary. The British newspapers are already reporting the usual suspects in Israel as screaming blue murder. Someone really needs to tell Bibi, Avigdor and Naftali to shut up, put up and, above all, to grow up.

  2. Well, we’ll see if the scramble for war is thwarted.

    The imagination of neo-conservatives, militaries, and the White House private armies to “create” casua belli (+ necessary mass hysteria) is endless. Remember the Tonkin incident or WMD and its legal, political, and military consequenses.

    I will believe in a change of the US Middle East policies, when I see a long-term shift in the US relations to the rest of the world, a dismantling of the US exceptionalism, and a new understanding of the meaning of international obligations.

    The US aggression internationally reflects the structural and open violence domestically, and vice versa.

    A pointer: common security, democracy, cooperation, and equity.

    Cheers, Björn Lindgren

    • When have any of those pushes to gin up war happened against the wishes of the President? In every case I can think of, the President was either the prime mover, or one of the prime movers, behind setting off the march to war.

      Over the longer term, locking in this policy of warming relations depends upon there being a loud and committed constituency supporting it. If the hawks make the destruction of Obama’s Iran thaw their #1 priority, and the doves don’t rally to it, then the hawks will win that fight.

  3. A triumph for American even handed diplomacy.

    A nation which last launched an aggressive war over 200 years ago, a signatory to the NPT, a nation which allows nuclear inspections and which has never been shown to have breached NPT protocols narrowly avoids the disaster of an Iraq style invasion. Of course a dirty war of murdering scientists, launching cyber attacks and a financial blockade continues.

    Meanwhile Obama’s ally last launched an aggressive attack on a neighbor last month and refuses to either sign the NPT or to have its suspected arsenal of 200 nuclear warheads inspected.

  4. The interim agreement that was reached with Iran was excellent news for both Iran and the West:

    1-It is a major step towards non-proliferation without the use of force, while also accepting – at least implicitly – the rights of the NPT members to uranium enrichment.

    2- It is a major step forward for world peace and it has saved the Middle East from another disastrous war. It shows the difference between Bush’s and Obama’s approaches to world politics. While President Bush resorted to the use of force to impose his will illegally on other nations, President Obama has tried to impose his views through dialog and diplomatic means without massive loss of life and huge costs.

    3- It will stabilize the Middle East that has been suffering from instability since the outbreak of the Iranian revolution, both as the result of the revolutionary zeal of Iranian leaders, as well as the military means that were used to contain it, most notably the disastrous Iran-Iraq war that killed and wounded more than a million people and caused hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage to Iran and Iraq.

    4- On the Iranian side, it has also shown the difference between the approaches of Ahmadinejad and Rouhani. While Ahmadinezhad with the use of the stick and radicalism did not achieve much, Rouhani in a few short months with the use of the carrot and a more conciliatory approach has managed to seal an interim deal with the West.

    5- It has brought Iran in out of the cold and hopefully will reintegrate it into the international community, and will shore up the forces that are fighting for greater democracy and human rights in Iran.

    6- The deal has shown that great powers, including China and Russia, can work together to resolve one of the most dangerous challenges of recent years. This may open the way for more cooperation between the United States, Europe, Russia and China to deal with critical problems, as they did in the case of chemical weapons in Syria.

    7- The agreement has put an end to the military approach advocated by Israel and Saudi Arabia who seemed to have formed a tacit agreement to push for war in order to serve their own hegemonic interests.

    8. Perhaps above all, one of the greatest benefits of this deal has been to put some limits, at least for the time being, on the Israeli Lobby and their rightwing supporters in the Congress. It may make many people realize that the Lobby is not invincible and when it suits American interests it can be confronted and defeated. The various pro-Israeli lobbies and their affiliated media pulled out all the stops to oppose the deal.

    9- Hopefully, this deal and the failure of Netanyahu’s military solution will encourage the more peace-loving Israelis to turn to greater moderation, reaching an agreement with their Palestinian neighbors and elect a more moderate government.

    10- Finally, it is important to bear in mind that as an interim deal it is only the first step and the real battle starts now. We can be sure that the Israelis, the Saudis and hardliners in Congress will work hard to derail the deal and again lead the world towards confrontation. Netanyahu has already expressed his extreme displeasure with the deal. We should not let down our guard prematurely and should push for a long-term realistic, fair, balanced and equal deal with Iran.

    • The opponents of Iranian diplomacy are gearing up like never before in Congress. “Liberals’ like Shumer are already badmouthing the agreement. Please, readers of IC, write to your Congressmembers and Senators. Help counter the calls they will receive from AIPAC supporters. Numbers count!

    • Thanks, Farhang! However, your #8 looks pretty iffy. We ought to be rushing to our phones, emails, tweeters etc to reassure our Congresscritters that this is a good deal and they need to be supporting it.

      Because we all know that AIPAC and its ilk are rushing to tell them otherwise, and they’ve got money and media clout and “anti-semitism!!!!” in their arsenal.

  5. Brilliant and courageous analysis professor. The best I’ve read on the subject. America and Iran are natural allies, if only people can see it as you just described. I’ve been thinking this for some while and you have spelled it out clear as day. Thank you for writing this. Keep up the excellent work.

    • It is certainly a good first step as a confidence-building measure. The test will come in a year’s time when the final agreement is to be in place. We will then know if Iran is serious about reining in its nuclear program to meet Western concerns.

      Nevertheless, even if the final agreement satisfies our goals regarding Iran’s nuclear program, it will not lead to anything resembling an American-Iranian alliance. We are not natural allies, as Iran and the United States will always have different priorities in the region. That does not mean we can’t have normal relations, but normal relations don’t necessarily lead to alliances. And we will not want to jeopardize relations with key Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

      Frankly, I will be very pleased if we can reach an agreement with Iran that eventually leads to normal relations. We don’t necessarily need to be allies.

      • I’d rather have the Iranians as our allies than the Saudis. Might be problematic being friendly with both Iran and Turkey however.

        • There are many reasons why a US-Iranian alliance would be problematic. You bring up one concerning Turkey. Another is Iran might have something to say about it. And it is a real stretch to think that the US and Iran have the same interests and goals in the Near East.

        • Bill, if the U.S. and Iran forge a partnership, Iran’s regional interest (being the greatest regional power) ceases to be contrary to American interests, and becomes a means of promoting them.

      • “Bill, if the U.S. and Iran forge a partnership, Iran’s regional interest (being the greatest regional power) ceases to be contrary to American interests, and becomes a means of promoting them.”

        You have unwarranted faith that the US and Iran will forge an alliance (or as you call now call it, a “partnership”), Joe. First of all, you are leaving Iran’s decision-makers out of your equation. You seem to think that because you think it would be a good thing, it will just happen, regardless of whether or not Iran shares your enthusiasm for an alliance.

        Secondly, you mistakenly define a US “partnership” with Iran as meaning that all of Iran’s interests in the Near East will cease to be contrary to US interests. Really? For starters, just look at our close relationship with Saudi Arabia. We have had a 70-year relationship with Saudi Arabia in which we have had strong, shared interests in the Near East, particularly with regard to oil and in maintaining stability. But at the same time we have very divergent interests when it comes to Syria, Egypt, the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum, and other issues.

        On what basis do you conclude that Iran’s interests will “cease to be contrary to US interests”? Even more to the point, on what basis do you conclude that Iran will see US interests as aligned with its own interests in the region? You have indicated in previous posts that you foresee a US-Iranian “alliance” as important as the US-led NATO alliance of the Cold War. The two situations are completely different.

        I can see an eventual normalization of relations with Iran. But an alliance “as important as NATO” is not in the cards. Why would we do it? To align ourselves with the Shiites against Sunnis? If you follow the subtleties of actors in the region, you will note that there is a proxy war being waged between Shiites and Sunnis. Do you really want the US to get involved in that? Far better that the US have normal relations and pursue our interests with all states in the region, but that we not favor one or the other in sectarian or other conflicts.

    • I agree completely, Ted. Iran is America’s most natural ally in the region.

      Here’s hoping this leads to even greater things!

  6. Why when it comes to Israel do we only get screeds like this from Juan. No where is evidence presented to support the title, namely that the idea was always to invade Iran then get it to stop its nuclear program with tough sanctions, which now have been seen to work.

    • “Why when it comes to Israel do we only get screeds like this from Juan.(?)”

      More likely, the question you should be asking is why you ask such a question. Have you ever heard of Binyamin Netanyahu and listened to his obsessive expressions of belligerence towards Iran that could have dragged in the United States?

    • Actually Simon, the question is why when it comes to Israel people have an immediate derangement syndrome that prevents them from reading. I’m not sure my post attributed anything at all to “Israel” as agent. It was about the US Neoconservatives and about the leader of the Likud Party. As for the current far right wing Israeli government not wanting to see Iran’s nuclear facilities bombed, surely you jest.

      link to

    • “No where is evidence presented to support the title, namely that the idea was always to invade Iran then get it to stop its nuclear program with tough sanctions, which now have been seen to work.”

      I think Professor Cole’s description of the hawks in Congress opposing these talks makes that case pretty effectively. These people, who purport to be motivated by the same desire to curtain nuclear proliferation to Iran that motivated the administration, are doing everything they can to try to squash a deal that would address that concern.

  7. It’s about time. Great! Lets hope Americans see through all their brainwashing recent past.
    Something should however be done about the justice the neocons never got. Oh,I sometimes have to dream.

  8. Kerry deserves kudos for his hard work. Obviously, this is just a first step but it’s an important first step. Bibi predictably is going bananas. But I think the real Israeli perspective is nicely summed up by this Haaretz analysis. Worth a close read:

    link to

    “Even from an Israeli perspective, it is actually a reasonable deal. Maybe even a good one.”

    That’s the clincher. All the rest is posturing.

  9. Thank you for putting this deal in context, Professor Cole. You do it very well.

    I’m curious to know the mechanism of how this deal will assist with human rights in Iran. Will it empower moderates and reformists in the upcoming Parliamentary elections?

    • President Rouhani seems to have been affected by the unrest in 2009 and is aware that Iran needs healing, including a more inclusive government. He seems to want to amnesty the Green Movement and at least slightly to expand individual rights. Rouhani will be in a better position to accomplish these things if he has a foreign policy success to trumpet, insulating him from the hard liners. So, at the margins at least, yes, I expect the agreement to have downstream positive effects domestically.

      • Good answer.

        In addition, a bad economy harms incumbents, as we saw in 2008 and then 2010, if it lasts long enough, it can cause the voters to throw out the incumbents, and then turn around and throw out the people they just elected.

        The effects of the sanctions no doubt played a role in Ahmedinejad’s demise. Loosening them in a way that produced clear improvement in Iran’s economy can only serve to help Rouhani.

  10. Presumably the deal contains a provision to allow Iran to purchase uranium enriched to 20% to supply the Tehran Research Reactor, a medical facility. If everyone recalls, it was Obama’s decision to politicize and embargo such purchases that led Iran to enrich to 20% in the first place.

    Let’s hope that Obama and other Western politicians learned the lesson that messing with people’s critical supplies–in this case 20% uranium–motivates people to find their own solutions. In this case it fundamentally undermined nuclear non-proliferation (one of Obama’s many less than brilliant decisions.)

  11. I agree with the thrust of the analysis, but the view espoused of the Iranian government is not objective.

    The Iranians regularly trained and equipped Shia militias in Iraq to attack us troops. This effort included weapons that killed many troops

    I will just mention the marine barracks bombing and other attacks in Lebanon.

    Many elements of the Iranian nuclear program were and are concealed. Why? To me the most obvious answer is that the Iranians have a covert military program. If Prof. Cole disputes this is like to hear an alternative explanation.

    Two wrongs do not make a right. We have problems with neocons and the Israeli lobby, bit of argue Iran also has internal issues with the irgc and other undemocratic elements in the government. The deal is good, but caution and hard-headed negotiation are required going forward.

    • Of course the Iranians do not want US troops in the Middle East. Neither do the Sunni nor the Shea. The only people who want us there are some of the Arab elites and the Israelis. That is because we protect their privileged positions. Without us they would fall.

      The reason to hide your nuclear facilities even when you are doing nothing wrong is to protect them in case of military attack. You always want uncertainty in the mind of your enemies. You will admit that not having WMDs is no protection against the wackos in Washington or Israel.

    • According to the NY Times #1 best-seller “By Way of Deception, Israeli intelligence had as an informant the auto mechanic for the Mercedes-Benz truck laden with explosives that struck the Marine Corps base in Beirut in 1983 but did not fully disclose information they had acquired from the informant to the U.S. that may have prevented the carnage. The reasoning was this information could have compromised the informant’s identity.

      Israel’s occupation of much of Lebanon is what spawned the rise of Hezbollah and made it a popular political party within Lebanon to this day.

      Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman Has openly toyed with the idea of a nuclear option against Gaza.


      (A) purchased 20 tons of heavy water from Britain in 1958 using a Norwegian front company “Noratom” with the proviso it would not be used for making weapons;

      (B)secretly constructed the Dimona nuclear facility and hid it with palm groves – it was first detected by the U.S. during a U-2 overflight in 1958;

      (C)secretly purchased bulk quantities of “yellowcake” uranium from Argentina in 1964;

      (D)exploited purportedly peaceful atomic research with the French until Pres. DeGaulle terminated all such joint research in 1966 after concluding Israel had exploited the relationship to acquire nuclear weaponry;

      (E)considered using A-bombs during the Yom Kippur War in 1973;

      (F)per a 1997 declassified U.S. Air Force Intelligence report entitled “Holy of Holies”, likely has around 400 fission and thermonuclear fusion bombs – this dual capability has been present since the mid-1980s;

      (G)does not acknowledge the possession of nuclear weapons nor allows IAEA inspections of its atomic research facilities.

      Can anyone explain why Israel has not faced international vilification and sanctions over its chronic deceit, non-cooperation, and hiding of a nuclear weapons program that is capable of wiping out tens of millions of civilians and contaminating the world’s food chain?

    • Sam writes:
      “The Iranians regularly trained and equipped Shia militias in Iraq to attack us troops. This effort included weapons that killed many troops”.

      Sam, looks like you did not read Dr. Cole’s column in full before complaining Iran.

      Here is the answer in Dr. Cole’s excellent column of today.
      “Really? The GOP backed the Mujahidin and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Contras in Nicaragua, the MEK in Iraq and Iran, and are backing the extremist Sunni rebels in Syria. They aren’t even skittish about allying with al-Qaeda affiliates, even today!”

      Besides that US has overthrown democratically elected governments around the globe including Dr Musaddiq in Iran in 1953. Because of it, hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed in Iran, Guatemala & many other countries.

    • I wish Juan had spoken to your claims. None of the claims that Iran was the ones killing GIs in Iraq were ever substantiated, those claims were all de-bunked. Juan tells us how the neo-cons are hell-bent to go to war, without mentioning the consistent campaign of over 1000 major headlines accusing the Iranians of killing GIs in Iraq. This was just made up. It doesn’t make sense, it isn’t logical, and it fits a pattern of telling lies. Plus, the stories were de-bunked.

  12. I sincerely hope that Obama and Kerry beef up their security as this will not sit well with Nuts & Yahoo and AIPAC.

  13. I am curious. Is Farhang the Mansour Farhang, the man named ambassador to the UN in 1979 by the recolutionary regime in Teheran? If so I am glad to see he is still around. I had him as a political science professor at CSUS many years ago.

      • Dear Farhang,

        I’ve been missing your excellent articles and commentaries on the Middle East and on international politics and disarmament. Often published here at Informed Comment.

        Do you write? and publish elsewhere these days?

        With many thanks, Björn Lindgren.

        • Dear Bjorn,
          Sorry, I have just seen your comment and kind words about me. I still publish widely, but sadly I have not published any article on Informed Comment recently. I have published quite a few articles on TFF recently.

  14. Makes me appreciate our President. We are lucky to have him.

    And to think there is a sizable number of Americans who would rather have Palin.

    Good grief.

  15. Today, on ABC’s “This Week,” John Kerry was asked about Israel’s objection to the preliminary agreement with Iran. Kerry fell back on that nauseating refrain he uses every time Israel is brought up in the conversation by once again (for the third? fourth? time) parroting the phrase that there is “no daylight” between the US and Israel. The precise quote is below.

    “Israel and the United States absolutely share the same goal here. There is no daylight between us with respect to what we want to achieve, at this point.”

    Would that were only the case!

    • There is no daylight between the US and Israel, and Brutus is an honorable man.

      There are certain rhetorical customs that one is well-served to nod towards.

  16. The Iranians were never a threat to the United States or to Europe, so the good news about this deal is that the bullies have let up to some degree and are less likely to trigger a war. The real threats remain, not necessarily in order of severity: Israel’s right wing, the Israel lobby and its lackeys in Congress; our neocons who are synonymous with the lobby; and Wall Street and its latest abomination, the Trans Pacific Partnership.

    Could Obama’s push for diplomacy and an agreement with Iran have been influenced by the insults he had heaped on him by Netanyahu?

    • President Obama strikes me as fundamentally different from Netanyahu, in that he wouldn’t allow personal pique over being insulted determine his actions.

      Perhaps we can say that Netanyahu’s longstanding disrespect towards Obama didn’t leave Israel with much leverage in attempting to change his mind.

  17. I do not believe the Obama administration cared what the Netanyahu government felt about this deal with Iran.

    Israel disregarded U.S. State Department efforts to stem the construction of new settlements in the West Bank and the involvement of Israel in good-faith final status negotiations in that region.

    Netanyahu offered the Palestinian Authority nothing and America disregarded PM Netanyahu in return on the Iran deal.

    Will Kerry and Rouhani be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?

    • “Will Kerry and Rouhani be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?”

      Way too early for that, Mark. Let’s wait and see how things shape up a year from now before going down that road. Just because Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for having accomplished absolutely nothing to deserve it (the Nobel Committee obviously wanted to demonstrate displeasure with former President Bush), doesn’t mean they should make an equally hasty and misguided decision now. Let’s see if a final agreement is reached that warrants the prize.

      • Here, Bill, something you never read before: the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s statement upon Obama’s designation as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 2009:

        link to

        The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

        Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations.

        The Nobel committee takes international arms reduction negotiations very seriously. YMMV.

        • You are wrong, Joe. I did read the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s statement awarding Obama the prize. If you read it carefully, every word of it is a slap at former President Bush. Moreover, it is stretched to the point of lauding Obama not for anything he accomplished, but for his rhetoric alone regarding “dialogue,” “negotiations,” “the United Nations,” etc.

          I am certainly not defending Bush, but it is pretty clear that the Prize was awarded to Obama to make a point regarding the Committee’s opinion of Bush. It’s not the first time the Peace Prize has been awarded for political reasons.

      • A little more information about the Nobel Peace Prize:

        link to

        How Are Nobel Peace Prize Winners Chosen?

        The goal of the Nobel Peace Prize is to award people who “have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
        Oftentimes, the winners are people who have not completed their work toward peace, but who are at a critical juncture in their work and who need the support that winning the Nobel Peace Prize brings.

        As with Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigon’s prize in 1976, awarded for organizing protests against violence in Northern Ireland, awarding the prize to Obama while his efforts were yet incomplete was the point.

        • “…awarding the prize to Obama while his efforts were yet incomplete was the point.”

          While his efforts were yet incomplete?! That is a howler! He had accomplished nothing at the point in October 2009 when he was awarded the Prize. Incomplete? He had been in office nine months and made a few speeches, but he had not accomplished anything of substance that could vaguely be interpreted as leading to peace.

        • Sadly, President Obama had only been president for two short weeks when the nomination deadline for the Nobel Prize expired. He was nominated for winning the election and not being George W. Bush.

          The international arms reduction negotiations conveniently took place between his nomination and the announcement of the Peace Prize award, but feel certain that head of comittee Torbjørn Jagland would have awarded Pres. Obama the Peace prize anyway, on the grounds of not being George W.Bush.

          It is unprecedented that a wartime president involved in two wars where one even failed to get UN security council support uses his lauterate speech to argue for the necessity of overseas warfare. After that he started drone bombing civilians in countries supposedly at peace with the US. An unworthy recipient of Alfred Nobel’s noble prize indeed.

  18. Thank you Prof. Cole for an informative post.

    I am pleased that Mr. Obama was able to get this far given the neo-cons, AIPAC, Israeli and Saudi lobbies and money which influences (I am being generous – it is more like ‘buys’) the majority of our congress and the media.

    I would not under-rate the ability of the above mentioned forces to do everything to scuttle this agreement. Also, a joint attack by Israel/ Saudi Arabia is not all that far fetched, which will result in the Pavlovian response by the US of siding with Israel no matter what.

    I just hope that Mr Obama has the strength to warn Israel – Saudi Arabia of any such misadventures and the ability to thwart them.

    With my fingers crossed!

  19. The deal with Syria opened the door to this agreement. The road to Tehran, as it turns out, lay not through Baghdad but through Damascus

  20. Thank Putin and Russia for checkmating the Empire on Syria, elsewise Obama would have continued doing Israel’s bidding.

    • Oh, Ken, Putin’s cave was certainly a setback for Russian imperialist interests in Syria, it goes a bit far so say the Russian drive for Empire has been “checkmated.”

      They’re still treating the war criminal as a client state, still sending heavy weaponry, still using the naval base. They suffered a little setback in having to disarm their client of his illegal weaponry, but as far as Russian imperial interests go, Assad’s chemical warfare capabilities were a pawn, not a king.

  21. “Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war.” Let’s hope this lasts.

    I’m never keen to credit Obama, but he has done right this time.

  22. “The decade-long Neoconservative plot to take the United States to war against Iran appears to have been foiled. ”

    Having worked for a Neo-Con and his minions, why do these words worry me? These guys have no appropriate morals or ethics and do whatever it takes to enrich their legacies. Somehow, they find ways to reassert themselves. Okay, never mind if their objective blows up or goes down in an amazing blaze of confusion and idiocy, but they still persevere and act like nothing went wrong

  23. link to

    “McClatchy newspapers reported last August that Cheney had
    proposal several weeks earlier “launching airstrikes at suspected training camps in Iran”, citing two officials involved in Iran policy.”

    “The option of attacking nuclear sites had been raised by Bush with the Joint Chiefs at a meeting in “the tank” at the Pentagon on December 13, 2006, and had been opposed by the Joint Chiefs, according to a report by Time magazine’s Joe Klein last June.

    After he become head of the Central Command (Centcom) in March 2007, Admiral William Fallon also made his opposition to such a massive attack on Iran known to the White House, according Middle East specialist Hillary Mann, who had developed close working relationships with Pentagon officials when she worked on the National Security Council staff.”

    These people are still around, still treated with respect, still on TV, still writing newspaper columns.

    Thanks Prof. Cole.

  24. The British Sailor incident was the most recent high-point of efforts to jack up a war based on lies against the Iranians. If you recall, this was in Bushs 2nd term, it followed about 2 years of daily headlines where Bush officals said they had information that the Iranians were the ones killing the GIs over in Iraq.

    We have to remember this history. The bi-partisan consensus Republicans and Democrats have all claimed publicly that their support for the disaster in Iraq was a mistake. They are just saying that so we will trust them when they keep saying we gotta go to war.

    The Iraq war was really just a foot in the door to do Iran, Iran is a big enough bathtub for Grover Nordquist to drown our Democracy and Iraq was surely not – like it says in PNAC – Iraq first then maybe a couple other places then Iran.

  25. You’re far too optimistic, Professor. Yes, this is very good news for Iran doves, but the fight is far from over.

    To use the metaphor of the war against Nazi Germany (because that’s such an awesome idea that never goes wrong):

    The preliminary deal John Kerry just struck is the Normandy landings. They’re still consolidating it, and crossing the Rhine is a long ways off.

  26. The idea has often been expressed that American opposition to Iran nuclear proliferation was purely a pretext for a war the US wanted for other reasons, like the Bush administration’s concern about alleged Iraqi WMDs. The people who have argued this made a similar argument about the Obama administration’s response to the Syrian government’s chemical warfare attack.

    Hopefully, this deal to address the concern about unconventional weapons by means short of war, coming on top of the deal struck to eliminate Syria’s chemical arsenal, will open some eyes. We can see the difference today (just as we did when the administration made the Syria deal) between the war-mongers like Lyndsey Graham, who are complaining about the deal, and the administration.

  27. I just remembered: didn’t you just write a blog post taking angry exception to the White House spokesman claim that failure to reach a deal would lead to war?

    And now you write a post about how a deal averted a war that would have otherwise happened.

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