A blame game erupted between the U.S. and Iran this week after talks in Geneva failed to produce a deal that would curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of Western sanctions. U.S. officials said Iran rejected an interim agreement to freeze its nuclear program for six months because the deal did not explicitly recognize what the Islamic Republic saw as its “right” to enrich uranium. Iran claimed the breakdown stemmed from France’s insistence that Tehran stop work on a heavy-water reactor and shrink its stockpile of enriched uranium. Other Western nations had expected those issues to be addressed in a later, more comprehensive deal aimed at preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Despite the setback, Secretary of State John Kerry said negotiators “made significant progress” in Geneva and that talks would resume on Nov. 20.
“We never thought we’d say this, but thank heaven for French foreign-policy exceptionalism,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The Geneva agreement would have given Iran access to as much as $50 billion in frozen oil revenues and kept intact its nuclear infrastructure, with which it could continue developing a nuclear bomb. It was, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, a “very, very bad deal.”
Netanyahu and his fellow hawks want the impossible, said Peter Beinart in TheDailyBeast.com. They define success “as no enriched uranium on Iranian soil.” The problem is that international law allows peaceful enrichment, and even Iranians who loathe the regime support the nuclear program as a matter of national pride. Since Iran will never go nuclear-free, the hawks are demanding a war, and should say so.
Israel will be the biggest loser if no deal is signed, said Roger Cohen in The New York Times. The American public will remain war-averse, and the Iranian centrifuges will keep spinning. That would leave Israel facing the “possibility of having to go it alone in a military strike that might dent but would not stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions”—and would almost certainly trigger a wider regional conflict.