A strange argument began taking shape Monday night with Susan Rice’s speech to AIPAC and blossomed on Tuesday in the response to Bibi Netanyahu’s speech. The putative defenders of the not-yet-done nuclear deal with Iran began demanding of its critics generally and then Bibi specifically to delineate what they would do differently at this point.

In some ways it’s a disingenuous parry. Those of us who were skeptical of the negotiations wanted the Senate to impose sanctions last year to give the talks teeth and give the administration more leverage. But Obama didn’t want that leverage; he wanted to make nice.

As a result, the administration has (or so reports say) conceded nearly every point in the interim accord—from numbers of centrifuges to the “sunset” clause that ends the deal after 10 years and effectively gives Iran a legal right to go nuclear in 2025.

This suggests, for one thing, that the negotiations might well have benefited from those tougher sanctions, and that their imposition before the talks end permanently at the end of June might still improve the deal—assuming it’s not already done. So the strategy that existed before the administration’s cave-in remains a possible approach assuming the Iranians don’t simply grab at what’s being offered.

No, no, say the defenders. It’s this deal (whatever it is in final form) or nothing. To walk away from the table, they say, would simply liberate Iran to spin its centrifuges faster, to evade inspections, and get even closer to a bomb. A deal, even one that goes away after ten years, would at least assure inspections and keep Iran non-nuclear for a decade.

I say this is a strange argument because it implies the deal is not a good one in itself but is good by dint of the fact that it’s the only deal we can get  at this time. Thus, in their eyes, the only bad deal is no deal. Which means any deal is a good deal.

If this is the best they can do, they have already lost the argument.




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