Opinion

How Obama won on Iran

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The opposition to the president’s historic deal with Iran is clear. It includes entitled foreign heads of state:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel.

Such a deal would increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war.

Such a deal would not block Iran’s path to the bomb. It would pave it.

Apocalyptic deadenders, like Bill Kristol:

Just FYI: Yesterday, the date of the Iran deal, was in the Hebrew calendar 13 Nissan. Cf. Book of Esther 3:12.

And a cavalcade of establishment hawks and Israel firsters led by Jeffrey Goldberg:

Jeffrey Goldberg doubts
Jeffrey Goldberg doubts

But the great news about the deal is that Obama has managed to assemble a wide coalition of support for peace inside the U.S. establishment. That includes:

Most importantly, Hillary Clinton, who “strongly support[s]” the president, and mentions Israel second;

Clinton Iran statement
Clinton Iran statement

the liberal Israel lobby group J Street, which also mentions Israel second–

in the essential interests of the United States, its allies in the region–including Israel–and the world…. There must also be no question that, if a final agreement ultimately cannot be reached, the United States is not to blame

the New York Times (which also mentions Israel second, to Sunni Arab nations)–

Yet in today’s poisonous political climate, Mr. Obama’s critics have gone to extraordinary lengths to undercut him and any deal. Their belligerent behavior is completely out of step with the American public, which overwhelmingly favors a negotiated solution with Iran, unquestionably the best approach.

Chris Matthews, who was strong for the deal last night; Jonathan Chait, a neocon-lite commentator who has been appalled by Israel’s conduct in the last year–

I was really hoping would go with 30 Years war negotiations this time, but nope, Munich again.

and Peter Beinart, who is astute as always:

can’t help thinking how different debate in Washington (+ Jerusalem) over would be if Sheldon Adelson had a different hobby.

What you must remember about Clinton, the New York Times, Chait and Beinart is that they all joined Kristol 12 years ago in supporting the disastrous Iraq war (in part, surely, because of Israel’s supposed security interests). So the war coalition of 2002-2003 is shattered. Hillary Clinton is getting beaten in Pennsylvania by Rand Paul in the latest Quinnipiac poll: she cannot run as a hawk.

We can thank history for that, principally, but Obama and Netanyahu also deserve credit. Netanyahu did so by overplaying his hand in the last three months and, in the most entitled manner, seeking to bully and manipulate the American political process. His strategy has backfired completely. It turns out that the U.S. is not something that can be easily moved, as he once claimed.

And Obama deserves credit for his strength throughout the last eight weeks. He allowed the fight with Netanyahu to become public. Doing so was a gamble, but he is a good student of politics and he saw that the lobby was fracturing; and the result was that he actually consolidated political support inside the liberal Jewish establishment.

For another thing, he made sure through John Kerry that the deal that was announced yesterday surprised everyone, overwhelming expectations. Remember that in the days leading up to the deal we thought it either wasn’t going to happen or they were going to kick the can down the road, issuing a flimsy statement of general agreement with June set as the hard deadline. No: they shocked the Lausanne deathwatch crew with pages of specifics.

The effect was electrifying. Reporters like Andrea Mitchell and Wolf Blitzer deferred to the diplomatic stroke on television yesterday. It’s not for nothing that reporters likened the talks to Versailles, which ended World War I; and the president’s speech was elegantly triumphant. Obama and Kerry had seized the moment, using the majesty of their offices to the utmost. With all the drama they could summon, they said, This is our generation’s historic moment. And almost everyone deferred to the presidency yesterday. Obama’s liberal base is over the moon; and the celebration in Tehran is also an element of the historic blow they struck. Reporters are sensitive to the zeitgeist. They sense, this is something that cannot be undone. It’s like the Cuba opening. Who will oppose that?

Of course there will be hardliners who try and block the deal, both in Washington and Tehran. But they already look to be obstructionists, fighting the stream of history. And here is my bet: Chuck Schumer will not be among them. The most important congressional swing vote will survey the political landscape and recognize that he must support the president.

The Iran deal is done. It was cut during the last eight weeks, first when Netanyahu tried to commandeer Congress and then when he issued his racist appeal against droves of Arabs on election day in Israel. Obama played that moment like a chess master. Netanyahu’s “kind of rhetoric… starts to erode the meaning of democracy,” he said. And today he has gotten his wish, of moving the U.S. and Iran forward, at last. The result will be growing pressure on the Israeli occupation.

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He finaly earned his Nobel.

He ‘won on Iran’ because it was the RIGHT and only civilized thing to do. The sanctions are an act of war and a violation of Iran’s sovereignty, imho. The Iranians are resilient. They have suffered much because of the neocons/pnac-ians. Making Israel obey the myriad laws that they’ve ignored… Read more »

“The von Moltke Fallacy and avoiding another World War, with Iran Iran has just de facto announced that it does not want a nuclear weapon, at least in this generation, and probably ever. That American and Western hawks can’t see this is a measure of their own blinkered view of… Read more »

Yes, Obama and the other 5 did well, overcoming the stupid, ideologically-driven politicizations of many Congressmen. We’ve seen the same ideologically-driven machinations lately in the religious-protection laws recently passed in several states not to mention Kansas’s governor refusing to provide services because he won’t raise taxes. A warning: “It’s not… Read more »

It is ironic that instead of celebrating this achievement, and a deal that would prevent more American bloodshed, and that would not cripple our economy further, Americans who are following the pied piper from Tel Aviv, are whining about it being such a bad deal, not good enough to please… Read more »