Diplomacy Was Our Best Option, By Far

In response to Netanyahu’s opposition to the new Iran-US deal, Kerry argued that the deal is good for Israel:

Ben Birnbaum considers what would have happened if Israel bombed Iran:

I wrote a couple weeks ago that Netanyahu was probably reconsidering his previous decisions not to strike Iran at a time when Ahmadinejad was still the face of the Iranian regime and when Barack Obama was still concerned with re-election. But it is worth considering where Israel would be had Netanyahu gotten his way in 2010, when his cabinet first seriously debated a strike on Iran. As Ha’aretz’s Amir Oren rightly put it, “if Netanyahu and Barack’s plans between spring 2010 and spring 2011 had succeeded, Israel would now be dealing with the wounds of the first Iranian war and preparing for the second, while Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb would be about to finish.”

Another top Israeli security figure recently noted to me that if the deal taking shape in Geneva were to forestall a nuclear-armed Iran for a couple of years, it would be almost as effective as an Israeli military strike—with none of the consequences, of course. Compared to the current situation, the Geneva deal does not clear that bar. But compared to where the Iranian program would be six months from now without a deal, it could come close.

Beinart dismisses Netanyahu’s complaints:

If Netanyahu and company have no better strategy for preventing an Iranian nuke, why call Obama’s deal a Munich-style surrender? Because that’s their name for any diplomatic agreement that requires Western compromise. For Netanyahu and his American allies, it’s always 1938, because if it’s not 1938 and your opponents aren’t Neville Chamberlain, then you’re not Winston Churchill. And if you’re not Churchill, you’ve got no compelling rationale for wielding power.

Marc Tracy ponders Netanyahu’s antics:

So what explains Bibi’s continued, vocal opposition? He has never seemed less powerful (and nor, not incidentally, has the vaunted “Israel lobby”). It actually happened: The Obama administration actually did the thing Netanyahu most didn’t want it to do, even if his (and ally-of-convenience Saudi Arabia’s) noisy, and totally valid, lobbying on behalf of his own country surely drove the negotiators to drive a harder bargain. There is the all-politics-is-local angle: Having just sustained a major defeat on his signature issue, Netanyahu’s Israeli rivals, on left and right, correctly smell blood in the water. He wants to ensure that the House of Representatives and the Senate—which traditionally look upon Israel’s (and Netanyahu’s) views far more favorably than the president—keep up the threat of further sanctions, which would scuttle the deal almost by definition. But so far, the talk on Capitol Hill, while extremely skeptical of the agreement, is of readying further sanctions if Iran fails to live up to its end of the deal. That is a lot different from passing sanctions now, and actually should in theory make the deal more likely to work, and to lead to a subsequent deal.

Jeffrey Goldberg, who is skeptical that a longterm deal is possible, nevertheless supports our diplomatic efforts:

[T]he U.S. might just have to walk away because there isn’t much proof that Hassan Rouhani, the putatively reformist new Iranian president, or the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, are authorized by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to actually agree to a meaningful deconstruction of the nuclear program. Strategic pauses are fine, but actual dismantling? It seems hard to believe, for any number of reasons, the simplest one being that it is in the best long-term interest of the regime to have the means to quickly build a nuclear weapon. It’s certainly not in the interest of the regime to agree to be disarmed by the U.S., its arch-enemy and the country still often referred to as the Great Satan.

So everything that has happened over these past months may not amount to anything at all. Contra Netanyahu, who unrealistically seeks only total Iranian capitulation, it isn’t stupid for Obama to find out for sure what, if anything, the Iranians are willing to give up for good.