Daniel W. Drezner

Why Opponents to the Iran Deal Need a Keymaster

Your humble blogger is extremely jet-lagged from his sojourn to Beijing, and has not had time to fully process the interim Iran deal that was signed over the weekend.  Instead, after landing, I saw the reactions from commentators and members of Congress and U.S. allies in the Middle East. They’re, um, not happy.  As a certified ...

Your humble blogger is extremely jet-lagged from his sojourn to Beijing, and has not had time to fully process the interim Iran deal that was signed over the weekend.  Instead, after landing, I saw the reactions from commentators and members of Congress and U.S. allies in the Middle East. They’re, um, not happy. 

As a certified Distinguished Expert in U.S. Foreign Policy — I have a Ph.D. and everything!! — my primary go-to source in counseling and advising those who are wary of diplomatic negotiations is, of course, the great 1980’s romantic comedy Say Anything.  And, as it turns out, there is an important clip from that film that offers some sage advise to those raising holy hell about this interim deal: 

Seriously, this is one of those moments when a lot of the critics linked above would have done well to have given their microphones to a Keymaster and then been required to show that they weren’t panicking before getting it back. 

As your friendly neighborhood foreign policy keymaster, let me be blunt:  the only thing going ballistic on this deal accomplishes is demonstrating your utter unreasonableness on negotiations with Iran. 

Now the key words in that last sentence are "going ballistic."  I’m not saying you should love the deal.  You distrust both Iran and the Obama administration.  I get that.  The thing is, you’re distrusting the wrong agreement.  This is an interim deal that is easily revocable in six months if a comprehensive deal falls apart.  Objecting to this deal now does nothing but erode your credibility for future moments of obstructionism if a comprehensive deal is negotiated. 

Seriously, game this out.  Let’s assume you implacably oppose the negotiations going forward.  If the deal holds up — and before you laugh, consider that Netanyahu is now describing the much-derided-at-the-time Syria deal as a "model" to follow — then you’ve undermined your reputation before the really big negotiations start.  So whatever justified opposition you might have to such a deal will be largely discredited.  On the other hand, if the deal falls apart — and there’s a decent chance of that — then you’ll get blamed for obstructionism for reflexively opposing it from the get-go. 

Now say you announce that despite your reservations, you’ll support the Obama administration’s steps towards peace provided the necessary security guarantees are procured, etc.  In this universe, if the deal falls through, it’s on the Obama administration, and you get to shake your head sadly and cluck about how you should have known better than to trust them.  If the deal succeeds but a comprehensive deal fails, that’s also on the Obama administration, nothing has been lost, and you look like a sober statesman.  Finally, if a comprehensive deal really is reached, you can oppose it then.  Indeed, your opposition will be bolstered by the fact that you supported the interim negotiations, suggesting that you’re not opposing diplomacy like a knee-jerk automaton. 

Am I missing anything? 

Your humble blogger is extremely jet-lagged from his sojourn to Beijing, and has not had time to fully process the interim Iran deal that was signed over the weekend.  Instead, after landing, I saw the reactions from commentators and members of Congress and U.S. allies in the Middle East. They’re, um, not happy. 

As a certified Distinguished Expert in U.S. Foreign Policy — I have a Ph.D. and everything!! — my primary go-to source in counseling and advising those who are wary of diplomatic negotiations is, of course, the great 1980’s romantic comedy Say Anything.  And, as it turns out, there is an important clip from that film that offers some sage advise to those raising holy hell about this interim deal: 

Seriously, this is one of those moments when a lot of the critics linked above would have done well to have given their microphones to a Keymaster and then been required to show that they weren’t panicking before getting it back. 

As your friendly neighborhood foreign policy keymaster, let me be blunt:  the only thing going ballistic on this deal accomplishes is demonstrating your utter unreasonableness on negotiations with Iran. 

Now the key words in that last sentence are "going ballistic."  I’m not saying you should love the deal.  You distrust both Iran and the Obama administration.  I get that.  The thing is, you’re distrusting the wrong agreement.  This is an interim deal that is easily revocable in six months if a comprehensive deal falls apart.  Objecting to this deal now does nothing but erode your credibility for future moments of obstructionism if a comprehensive deal is negotiated. 

Seriously, game this out.  Let’s assume you implacably oppose the negotiations going forward.  If the deal holds up — and before you laugh, consider that Netanyahu is now describing the much-derided-at-the-time Syria deal as a "model" to follow — then you’ve undermined your reputation before the really big negotiations start.  So whatever justified opposition you might have to such a deal will be largely discredited.  On the other hand, if the deal falls apart — and there’s a decent chance of that — then you’ll get blamed for obstructionism for reflexively opposing it from the get-go. 

Now say you announce that despite your reservations, you’ll support the Obama administration’s steps towards peace provided the necessary security guarantees are procured, etc.  In this universe, if the deal falls through, it’s on the Obama administration, and you get to shake your head sadly and cluck about how you should have known better than to trust them.  If the deal succeeds but a comprehensive deal fails, that’s also on the Obama administration, nothing has been lost, and you look like a sober statesman.  Finally, if a comprehensive deal really is reached, you can oppose it then.  Indeed, your opposition will be bolstered by the fact that you supported the interim negotiations, suggesting that you’re not opposing diplomacy like a knee-jerk automaton. 

Am I missing anything? 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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