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March 10, 2015 10:20 am

Opinion: Supporters of Iran Nuclear Deal Are Strengthening Tehran’s Negotiating Position

avatar by Alan Dershowitz

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US Secretary of State John Kerry (in center, left side) prepares to sit down with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (in center, right side) in Vienna, Austria. Talks regarding Iran's nuclear program resumed on Monday. Photo: State Department.

Despite repeating the mantra that “no deal is better than a bad deal” with Iran, the United States seems to be negotiating on the basis of a belief that the worst possible outcome of the current negotiations is no deal. Many supporters of the deal that is now apparently on the table are arguing that there is no realistic alternative to this deal. That sort of thinking out loud empowers the Iranian negotiators to demand more and compromise less, because they believe—and have been told by American supporters of the deal—that the United States has no alternative but to agree to a deal that is acceptable to the Iranians.

A perfect example of this mindset was the Fareed Zakaria GPS show this past Sunday on CNN.  He had a loaded panel of two experts and a journalist favoring the deal and one journalist opposed.  This followed Zakaria’s opening essay in favor of the deal. All those in favor made the same point: that this deal is better than no deal, and that any new proposal—say to condition the sunset provision on Iran stopping the export of terrorism and threatening to destroy Israel—is likely to be rejected by Iran and is therefore, by definition, “irrational” or “unproductive” because it would result in no deal.

The upshot of this position is that Iran essentially gets a veto over any proposal, but the United States does not get to make new proposals.  If it were true that this deal is better than no deal, it would follow that any proposed change in this deal that Iran doesn’t like is a non-starter.

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That’s why Netanyahu’s reasonable proposal that the sunset provision be conditioned on changes in Iranian actions and words has been poo-pooed by the so called “experts.” They haven’t tried to respond on the merits. Instead they are satisfied to argue that Iran would never accept such conditions, and therefore the proposal should be rejected as a deal breaker.

This is the worst sort of negotiation strategy imaginable: telling the other side that any proposal that is not acceptable to them will be taken off the table, and that any leader who offers it will be attacked as a deal breaker.  This approach—attacking Netanyahu without responding to his proposal on their merits—characterizes the approach of the administration and its supporters.

We will now never know whether Iran might have accepted a conditional sunset provision because the advocates of the current deal, both inside and outside the administration, have told Iran that if they reject this proposal, it will be withdrawn, because it endanger the deal. What incentive would the Iranians then have to consider this proposal on its merits?  None!

The current mindset of the deal’s advocates is that the United States needs the deal more than the Iranians do. That is why the United States is constantly leaking reports that the Mullahs may be reluctant to sign even this one-sided deal, which has shifted perceptibly in favor of the Iranian position over the past several months. But the truth is that Iran, which is suffering greatly from the combination of sanctions and dropping oil prices, needs this deal—a deal that would end sanctions and allow it unconditionally to develop nuclear weapons within ten years.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they will accept it. They may push for even more compromises on the part of the United States. The reality is that we are in a far stronger negotiating position that advocates of the deal have asserted, but we are negotiating from weakness because we have persuaded the Iranians that we need the deal—any deal—more than they do.

Most Israelis seem to be against the current deal, especially the unconditional sunset provision. Author David Grossman, a left-wing dove who is almost always critical of Netanyahu, has accused the United States of “criminal naiveté.”  He opposes Netanyahu’s reelection but urges the world to listen to what Netanyahu told Congress.

“But what [Netanyahu] says about Iran and the destructive part it is playing in the Middle East cannot and should not be ignored,” Grossman said. “Netanyahu is right when he says that according to the emerging deal there is nothing to prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear bomb once the deal expires in another 10 years, and on this matter there is no difference in Israel between Left and Right.”

There are considerable differences, however, between the Obama administrations’ negotiating position and the views of most Israelis, Saudis, Emirates, Egyptians and Jordanians—as well as most members of our own Congress. We can get a better deal, but supporters of a deal must abandon their unhelpful public claims that the current deal is the best we can get.

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  • zadimel

    Negotiations with the Iranians will likely produce the ten year window.Continuing the essential research toward a device that could be carried by aircraft,cruise missile or ground launched missile during a decade of open and secret work,the world will end for the Jewish State unless that nation strikes first. Iran has intentionally and quite openly called for the annihilation of Israel. Its proxies in Hamas,Hezbollah,Fatah, Popular Front and other groups continue to terrorize Israel. However, Israel’s only defense is its self-defense. It may have to alone remove the major threat,Iran, by destroying its nuclear R&D,manufacturing,producing and launching operations. This type of attack may confuse,confound and instill loathing among its enemies, but the survival of the Jewish State must remain supreme.

  • Now who is holding the gun to the worlds head? I hate to say it but it is about time that a hard line stance needs to be taken and a plan to destroy all the facilities.

  • Yale

    This point was made Thomas Schelling in 1960. You’d think there was someone in the Administration that was aware of it.

  • Liz Wagner

    They say it is the only deal, because they like the idea of having a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of both the U.S. and Israel. Every foreign policy move this President has made has resulted in a weakening of U.S. power and influence. With this “deal,” the administration disempowers Israel, as well. For nearly 70 years, Israel has put superhuman effort into surviving and thriving under relentless attack by her enemies, near and far. Now, think of the psychic drain on Israel having to worry if, or when, Iran will drop the bomb. This deal, as we understand it now, isn’t just stupid. It’s also cruel and evil.

  • steven L

    All the “sane” people are INSANE. You would believe that the fewer nuke warheads the safer we all are. This appears to be contra-intuitively WRONG otherwise why allow Iran to get nuke sooner than later or NEVER.
    The Pr. owe Americans an explanation that he refuses to give. He sold the country 6 and 1/2 years ago.
    The 47’s letter to Iran offers Iran to chose between a self-imposed sanctions or a real good deal that the congress is willing to approve with serious verifications in spite of the fact that Tehran will cheat no matter what.
    This letter give spine to a spineless president. He should thank the Repub.

  • Reform School

    In the years before Dr. Feelgoode’s Political Correctness seized the American Conscience, stand-up comedians in cabarets and showrooms joked of a 100% ban on circumcision for the children of one East European nation: “No more circumcision for the Polish kids. Too much Brain Damage!”

  • Ivan Gur-Arie

    If someone chose Obama as a defense attorney in a murder case, God would have to be kind to the defendant. He would get a new trial based on the incompetency of his attorney. What wise person told Obama that giving away you bottom line in a negotiation is likely to get you what you truly want? Apparently Obama,the propfessor, knows it all. God help the US of A.

  • SPKTRUTH

    “Traitors.”
    That’s how the front page of today’s New York Daily News describes the 47 Republican senators who wrote to Iran’s leaders yesterday in an effort to undermine President Obama and sabotage his diplomatic efforts to prevent another unnecessary war.1

    It wasn’t just the Daily News. Media outlets across the country are—for good reason—slamming Republican war hawks for this shocking and dangerous attempt to sabotage diplomacy and disrespect the president.2

    The Detroit Free Press wrote in an editorial that the “Republicans who dispatched this letter have … disgraced themselves and undermined the credibility of the nation whose constitution they took an oath to uphold.”3

    This is a pivotal moment—with less than two weeks left before the deadline for the United States and five other nations to reach an agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program. Without successful diplomacy, we could be rushed into a deadly, costly war. And that is exactly the path these 47 Republicans’ letter threatens to set us on.

    We can’t let these Republican war hawks prevail. Are you in to stop them?
    Yes, I’ll chip in $3 right now to stand up to these Republican senators, defend diplomacy, and prevent a rush to war.
    These Republicans are apparently so blinded by their hatred of President Obama that they are willing to throw out long-established precedent and risk war in order to try to embarrass him.

    Here’s the good news: despite what they threaten, Senate Republicans do not, by themselves, have the power to kill these negotiations. The only way they can do that is if Democratic senators go along with them.

    And while a handful of Democrats were threatening to do just that until yesterday, this outrageous letter could be a game changer. Multiple Democratic lawmakers who had been contemplating working with Republicans to undercut negotiations are now telling reporters this letter makes them less likely to.4

    We need to seize this moment and ensure that this Republican letter becomes toxic to Democrats. GOP efforts to kill negotiations are sabotage—plain and simple—and Democrats need to stay far away from them. Are you in?
    Yes, I’ll chip in $3 right now to stand up to these Republican senators, defend diplomacy, and prevent a rush to war.
    Here’s our plan for this big two-week push:
    – First, we’re already at work on a hard-hitting, rapid-response TV ad. We’ll use it to make sure the public knows just how damaging this letter and other efforts to kill diplomacy are—and that we cannot afford another unnecessary war. Thanks to MoveOn members’ previous contributions, we’ll already be able to produce this ad and get it on the air, but what MoveOn members chip in now will determine how widely we can run it and how far its message will reach.
    – We’ll also produce print and online ads that target key swing states, holding Republican senators accountable for signing this letter, and urging key Democrats to support the President’s efforts to avoid war.
    – Finally, we’ll support MoveOn members’ continued grassroots activism. More than 100,000 MoveOn members have already taken action in support of diplomacy with Iran, and more than 10,000 have called our senators. We want to ramp up our organizing capacity in this crucial last window for negotiations.5

    To do all that, it’ll take lots of MoveOn members chipping in what we can. Can you help?

    Count me in. I’ll chip in $3 and fight to defend this last chance for diplomacy.

    As Vice President Biden said in response to the Republican letter, “In 36 years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary—that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal … that is as false as it is dangerous.”6

    President Biden is right. This is a dangerous moment—one that quite literally could make the difference between war and peace. I’m so proud of all the work MoveOn members have done to support diplomacy so far, and of the important work I know we’ll do in these next hours and days.

    Thanks for all you do.

    -Jo, Alejandro, Victoria, Nick, and the rest of the team

    Sources:
    1. Front page, New York Daily News, March 10, 2015
    http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.2143807.1425992550!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/iran11n-2-web.jpg?enlarged

    2. “Republicans are crossing a dangerous new line: sabotaging US foreign policy,” Vox, March 9, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303421&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=1

    3. “Editorial: GOP letter to Iran disgraces America,” Detroit Free Press, March 10, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303429&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=2

    4. “Republican Moves Imperil Democratic Cooperation on Iran,” The New York Times, March 10, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303430&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=3

    5. “How Progressives Gave Peace with Iran a Chance,” MoveOn.org, February 7, 2014

    http://front.moveon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/020714_MoveOn_Peace_v2_600Email.png
    6. “Democrats deplore Republican letter to Tehran on nuke talks,” The Washington Post, March 10, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303431&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=4

    Want to support our work? We’re entirely funded by our 8 million members—no corporate contributions, no big checks from CEOs. And our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. Start a monthly donation here or chip in a one-time donation here.

  • SPKTRUTH

    “Traitors.”
    That’s how the front page of today’s New York Daily News describes the 47 Republican senators who wrote to Iran’s leaders yesterday in an effort to undermine President Obama and sabotage his diplomatic efforts to prevent another unnecessary war.1

    It wasn’t just the Daily News. Media outlets across the country are—for good reason—slamming Republican war hawks for this shocking and dangerous attempt to sabotage diplomacy and disrespect the president.2

    The Detroit Free Press wrote in an editorial that the “Republicans who dispatched this letter have … disgraced themselves and undermined the credibility of the nation whose constitution they took an oath to uphold.”3

    This is a pivotal moment—with less than two weeks left before the deadline for the United States and five other nations to reach an agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program. Without successful diplomacy, we could be rushed into a deadly, costly war. And that is exactly the path these 47 Republicans’ letter threatens to set us on.

    We can’t let these Republican war hawks prevail. Are you in to stop them?
    Yes, I’ll chip in $3 right now to stand up to these Republican senators, defend diplomacy, and prevent a rush to war.
    These Republicans are apparently so blinded by their hatred of President Obama that they are willing to throw out long-established precedent and risk war in order to try to embarrass him.

    Here’s the good news: despite what they threaten, Senate Republicans do not, by themselves, have the power to kill these negotiations. The only way they can do that is if Democratic senators go along with them.

    And while a handful of Democrats were threatening to do just that until yesterday, this outrageous letter could be a game changer. Multiple Democratic lawmakers who had been contemplating working with Republicans to undercut negotiations are now telling reporters this letter makes them less likely to.4

    We need to seize this moment and ensure that this Republican letter becomes toxic to Democrats. GOP efforts to kill negotiations are sabotage—plain and simple—and Democrats need to stay far away from them. Are you in?
    Yes, I’ll chip in $3 right now to stand up to these Republican senators, defend diplomacy, and prevent a rush to war.
    Here’s our plan for this big two-week push:
    – First, we’re already at work on a hard-hitting, rapid-response TV ad. We’ll use it to make sure the public knows just how damaging this letter and other efforts to kill diplomacy are—and that we cannot afford another unnecessary war. Thanks to MoveOn members’ previous contributions, we’ll already be able to produce this ad and get it on the air, but what MoveOn members chip in now will determine how widely we can run it and how far its message will reach.
    – We’ll also produce print and online ads that target key swing states, holding Republican senators accountable for signing this letter, and urging key Democrats to support the President’s efforts to avoid war.
    – Finally, we’ll support MoveOn members’ continued grassroots activism. More than 100,000 MoveOn members have already taken action in support of diplomacy with Iran, and more than 10,000 have called our senators. We want to ramp up our organizing capacity in this crucial last window for negotiations.5

    To do all that, it’ll take lots of MoveOn members chipping in what we can. Can you help?

    Count me in. I’ll chip in $3 and fight to defend this last chance for diplomacy.

    As Vice President Biden said in response to the Republican letter, “In 36 years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary—that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal … that is as false as it is dangerous.”6

    President Biden is right. This is a dangerous moment—one that quite literally could make the difference between war and peace. I’m so proud of all the work MoveOn members have done to support diplomacy so far, and of the important work I know we’ll do in these next hours and days.

    Thanks for all you do.

    -Jo, Alejandro, Victoria, Nick, and the rest of the team

    Sources:
    1. Front page, New York Daily News, March 10, 2015
    http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.2143807.1425992550!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/iran11n-2-web.jpg?enlarged

    2. “Republicans are crossing a dangerous new line: sabotaging US foreign policy,” Vox, March 9, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303421&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=1

    3. “Editorial: GOP letter to Iran disgraces America,” Detroit Free Press, March 10, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303429&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=2

    4. “Republican Moves Imperil Democratic Cooperation on Iran,” The New York Times, March 10, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303430&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=3

    5. “How Progressives Gave Peace with Iran a Chance,” MoveOn.org, February 7, 2014

    http://front.moveon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/020714_MoveOn_Peace_v2_600Email.png
    6. “Democrats deplore Republican letter to Tehran on nuke talks,” The Washington Post, March 10, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303431&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=4

    Want to support our work? We’re entirely funded by our 8 million members—no corporate contributions, no big checks from CEOs. And our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. Start a monthly donation here or chip in a one-time donation here.

    This email was sent to Coalition of Commumity Organizations on March 10, 2015. To change your email address or update your contact info, click here. To remove yourself from this list, click here.

    “Traitors.”
    That’s how the front page of today’s New York Daily News describes the 47 Republican senators who wrote to Iran’s leaders yesterday in an effort to undermine President Obama and sabotage his diplomatic efforts to prevent another unnecessary war.1

    It wasn’t just the Daily News. Media outlets across the country are—for good reason—slamming Republican war hawks for this shocking and dangerous attempt to sabotage diplomacy and disrespect the president.2

    The Detroit Free Press wrote in an editorial that the “Republicans who dispatched this letter have … disgraced themselves and undermined the credibility of the nation whose constitution they took an oath to uphold.”3

    This is a pivotal moment—with less than two weeks left before the deadline for the United States and five other nations to reach an agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program. Without successful diplomacy, we could be rushed into a deadly, costly war. And that is exactly the path these 47 Republicans’ letter threatens to set us on.

    We can’t let these Republican war hawks prevail. Are you in to stop them?
    Yes, I’ll chip in $3 right now to stand up to these Republican senators, defend diplomacy, and prevent a rush to war.
    These Republicans are apparently so blinded by their hatred of President Obama that they are willing to throw out long-established precedent and risk war in order to try to embarrass him.

    Here’s the good news: despite what they threaten, Senate Republicans do not, by themselves, have the power to kill these negotiations. The only way they can do that is if Democratic senators go along with them.

    And while a handful of Democrats were threatening to do just that until yesterday, this outrageous letter could be a game changer. Multiple Democratic lawmakers who had been contemplating working with Republicans to undercut negotiations are now telling reporters this letter makes them less likely to.4

    We need to seize this moment and ensure that this Republican letter becomes toxic to Democrats. GOP efforts to kill negotiations are sabotage—plain and simple—and Democrats need to stay far away from them. Are you in?
    Yes, I’ll chip in $3 right now to stand up to these Republican senators, defend diplomacy, and prevent a rush to war.
    Here’s our plan for this big two-week push:
    – First, we’re already at work on a hard-hitting, rapid-response TV ad. We’ll use it to make sure the public knows just how damaging this letter and other efforts to kill diplomacy are—and that we cannot afford another unnecessary war. Thanks to MoveOn members’ previous contributions, we’ll already be able to produce this ad and get it on the air, but what MoveOn members chip in now will determine how widely we can run it and how far its message will reach.
    – We’ll also produce print and online ads that target key swing states, holding Republican senators accountable for signing this letter, and urging key Democrats to support the President’s efforts to avoid war.
    – Finally, we’ll support MoveOn members’ continued grassroots activism. More than 100,000 MoveOn members have already taken action in support of diplomacy with Iran, and more than 10,000 have called our senators. We want to ramp up our organizing capacity in this crucial last window for negotiations.5

    To do all that, it’ll take lots of MoveOn members chipping in what we can. Can you help?

    Count me in. I’ll chip in $3 and fight to defend this last chance for diplomacy.

    As Vice President Biden said in response to the Republican letter, “In 36 years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary—that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal … that is as false as it is dangerous.”6

    President Biden is right. This is a dangerous moment—one that quite literally could make the difference between war and peace. I’m so proud of all the work MoveOn members have done to support diplomacy so far, and of the important work I know we’ll do in these next hours and days.

    Thanks for all you do.

    -Jo, Alejandro, Victoria, Nick, and the rest of the team

    Sources:
    1. Front page, New York Daily News, March 10, 2015
    http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.2143807.1425992550!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/iran11n-2-web.jpg?enlarged

    2. “Republicans are crossing a dangerous new line: sabotaging US foreign policy,” Vox, March 9, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303421&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=1

    3. “Editorial: GOP letter to Iran disgraces America,” Detroit Free Press, March 10, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303429&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=2

    4. “Republican Moves Imperil Democratic Cooperation on Iran,” The New York Times, March 10, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303430&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=3

    5. “How Progressives Gave Peace with Iran a Chance,” MoveOn.org, February 7, 2014

    http://front.moveon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/020714_MoveOn_Peace_v2_600Email.png
    6. “Democrats deplore Republican letter to Tehran on nuke talks,” The Washington Post, March 10, 2015
    http://www.moveon.org/r/?r=303431&id=109593-17243877-6Uex0Gx&t=4

    Want to support our work? We’re entirely funded by our 8 million members—no corporate contributions, no big checks from CEOs. And our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. Start a monthly donation here or chip in a one-time donation here.

    This email was sent to Coalition of Commumity Organizations on March 10, 2015. To change your email address or update your contact info, click here. To remove yourself from this list, click here.

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  • Pinchos Woolstone

    Obama and Kerry are drunk on self delusion and driven naivety, the Iran regime is playing them like school boys.
    How pathetic that our leaders are so inane.
    If the nuclear threat comes Israel will have no choice but to destroy the facilities.

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