The Perils of Backseat Negotiating

The agreement between Iran and the P5+1 is a promising start to the difficult process of dissuading Iran from its nuclear ambitions. While it is too early to declare the deal an historic achievement, it is also too soon to call it a failure – or to claim that "better" Western negotiators could have extracted more Iranian concessions.

DENVER – The agreement reached in Geneva between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (the so-called P5+1) is an excellent start to the difficult process of dissuading Iran from attempting to become the world’s newest nuclear-weapons power. It is too early to praise the deal as an historic achievement, but it is also far too soon to peg it as a failure, or to suggest that better negotiators somehow could have done a better job of wrangling concessions from their Iranian counterparts.

Negotiating across a table is a lot different from talking on a television news program. As with many efforts of its kind, the agreement needs to be compared to alternative outcomes, starting with the real possibility of not concluding any deal at all. Critics of the agreement ought to be pressed to explain how more sanctions could achieve better results than they have shown thus far.

The agreement will be hotly debated in large measure because it comes against a backdrop of unprecedented partisan tension in Washington. The breakdown of bipartisan foreign policy in the United States has rarely been so complete and seemingly irreparable as it is today. The traditional dove-versus-hawk debate is now crosshatched by an isolationism-versus-engagement cleavage, all of which is overlain with a deep mistrust of all government institutions.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/BJMJwOM;
  1. China corruption Isaac Lawrence/Getty Images

    The Next Battle in China’s War on Corruption

    • Chinese President Xi Jinping knows well the threat that corruption poses to the authority of the Communist Party of China and the state it controls. 
    • But moving beyond Xi's anti-corruption purge to build robust and lasting anti-graft institutions will not be easy, owing to enduring opportunities for bureaucratic capture.
  2. Italy unemployed demonstration SalvatoreEsposito/Barcroftimages / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    Putting Europe’s Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work

    Across the European Union, millions of people who are willing and able to work have been unemployed for a year or longer, at great cost to social cohesion and political stability. If the EU is serious about stopping the rise of populism, it will need to do more to ensure that labor markets are working for everyone.

  3. Latin America market Federico Parra/Getty Images

    A Belt and Road for the Americas?

    In a time of global uncertainty, a vision of “made in the Americas” prosperity provides a unifying agenda for the continent. If implemented, the US could reassert its historical leadership among a group of countries that share its fundamental values, as well as an interest in inclusive economic growth and rising living standards.

  4. Startup office Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    How Best to Promote Research and Development

    Clearly, there is something appealing about a start-up-based innovation strategy: it feels democratic, accessible, and so California. But it is definitely not the only way to boost research and development, or even the main way, and it is certainly not the way most major innovations in the US came about during the twentieth century.

  5. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.