The Debate Begins

News | November 26, 2013

The P5+1 major world powers struck a six-month interim deal with Iran on Tehran’s nuclear program in Geneva earlier this week. The deal, which essentially freezes Iran’s nuclear program, granting limited relief from UN sanctions, has sparked sharply diverging reactions.

Though some assert the deal is a historic turning point in U.S.-Iranian relations—a triumph of public diplomacy over containment—other have proclaimed the deal is an embarrassment and “a historic mistake.” Read select opinions from an assortment of viewpoints and sources: 

“Whether by design or accident, the nuclear deal struck in Geneva this past weekend is about far more than centrifuges, enrichment and breakout times.

Ultimately, the success of the nuclear negotiations will help determine who and what will define Iran for the next few decades.

Will Iran be defined by the confrontational and bombastic approach of its former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the conservatives around him? Or will it be defined by the more open and moderate approach of its current President Hassan Rouhani and his energetic and respected Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif.”

-“Nuclear Deal will Define Future Iran,” Reuters, November 25, 2013.   


“The Obama administration moved quickly to sell the agreement to nervous U.S. allies, particularly Israel, and to persuade lawmakers not to push ahead with new economic sanctions that could prompt Iran to abandon the six-month freeze on its nuclear program set under the accord. In interviews, Secretary of State John F. Kerry defended the deal, saying that the United States and its allies believe that the agreement ensures Iran will either abide by the terms or face the reinstatement of measures that have crippled the country’s economy.”

-“After Iran nuclear deal, tough challenges ahead,” Washington Post, November 24, 2013.


“The White House has to persuade skeptical lawmakers to hold off on imposing new sanctions on Iran during the next six months. That may be a hard sell given the number of lawmakers from both parties who want to increase the sanctions on Iran rather than softening or relieving any of the existing measures. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a close White House ally, has said he's prepared to take up a tough new sanctions bill when the Senate comes back into session next month. The bill would almost certainly pass if it was put to a full vote. Secretary of State John Kerry said Obama was prepared to veto new sanctions legislation, but that's a battle the White House would dearly love to avoid.”

-“Deal Reached to Halt Iran's Nuclear Program,” Foreign Policy, November 24, 2013.


“The U.S. readiness to talk with Tehran, after decades of mistrust, has angered some people in Israel, who said it was a form of appeasement. But supporters of the deal say it will encourage Iran to be more open about its true nuclear aims, which it says are peaceful.

Israel's parliamentary opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Netanyahu should minimize confrontation with the Obama administration "and restore the intimate dialogue with the leaders of the big powers."”

 -“Netanyahu sending security aide to U.S. for talks on Iran,” Reuters, November 25, 2013.


“The Iranian foreign minister pointed to Israel’s animosity with Iran and fury of the Israeli leader over the victory of Iran’s diplomacy in Geneva talks, and said, “In these negotiations we want to build the trust of the world in the fact that we are not after nuclear weapons; so why have the enemies been terrified in such a way and why are they crying out?”

-“AEOI Chief: Structure of Iran’s N. Program Unaffected by Geneva Deal,” Fars News Agency, November 25, 2013.


“Gary Sick, a former National Security Council Iran expert who now teaches at Columbia University, said the bilateral U.S.-Iran communication was about ‘laying the groundwork’ for the interim deal concluded in Geneva. ‘The real negotiations, of course, took place with the P5+1’ he said, but the secret U.S.-Iran talks were a way ‘to break the ice a little bit.’ There has been more direct communication between Washington and Tehran in the last few months, he suggested, than in the 34 years since the Iranian revolution.”’

-“Nuclear deal raises prospects (and fears) of broader US-Iran thaw,” Al Jazeera America, November 24, 2013.


“…The interim nuclear agreement signed in Geneva on Sunday by Iran and the six big powers has many of the flaws of Munich and Paris. But it has none of their redeeming or exculpating aspects.

After Geneva there will come a new, chaotic Mideast reality in which the United States will lose leverage over enemies and friends alike.”

-“Stephens: Worse Than Munich,” The Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2013


Just as the United States has had to adapt to a world where its power is unmatched but no longer will determinant, Israel have to do the same. With enlightened leadership this adaptation could strengthen the Jewish state, securing the nation through integration in its region rather than domination of it. For now Israel is some way from this mind-set. Its overriding prism is military. It was important that President Obama set down a marker, as he has through this deal, one that may spur new strategic reflection in Israel.

-“Israel's Iran Dilemma, “The New York Times, November 25, 2013


“This is a sham from beginning to end. It’s the worst deal since Munich…It’s really hard to watch the president and the secretary of state and not think how they cannot be embarrassed by this deal.”

-“Charles Krauthammer: Worst since Munich,” Politico, November 26, 2013.