The news of a framework agreement for an Iran nuclear deal reached Thursday has not been met with unanimous applause. Far from it. For many the decision (and the attendant intimation of reconciliation between Tehran and the West) is tantamount to the realization of their worst nightmares. The agreement, reached in Lausanne after exhaustive negotiations, has Iran promising to make extensive cuts to its nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions. The deal may represent the beginning of the end of a 13-year-long nuclear standoff, but not everyone is happy.
The average Iranian is no doubt thrilled at the thought of an end to crushing sanctions. Celebrations — in large part stemming from Iran’s youth, who make up 60 percent of the country’s population — erupted in Tehran’s streets and across social media. “You'd think Iran had just won the World Cup,” CNN reports. “Things can't get worse than they are so, I'm happy with this news,” Tehran resident Alireza told the publication. “This is pretty historic and I pray that my children will be able to live in an Iran that can play nice with the international community.” Grateful crowds greeted Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif as a hero when he arrived home on Friday.
But Iran’s hardliners are not so chuffed. The New York Times reports that conservative Iranians have criticized the deal as a bargain for the West and an unmitigated disaster for Iran. Hossein Shariatmadari, adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Fars news agency that Iran swapped a “ready-to-race horse with a broken bridle.” The hostility is typical of Iranian conservatives’ opposition to the moderate leadership of President Hassan Rouhani, who has spearheaded the nuclear deal.
Back in the U.S., President Barack Obama has his own conservative critics to face. A furious cohort of Republicans has leapt to condemn the “flawed” deal, weeks after the opposition-majority Congress sent a letter to Tehran warning them that any arrangement might not outlast Obama’s presidency. House Speaker John Boehner released a statement Friday that criticized the deal as “an alarming departure from the White House’s initial goals,” and required that Congress “be allowed to fully review the details of any agreement before any sanctions are lifted.” He wrote:
It would be naive to suggest the Iranian regime will not continue to use its nuclear program, and any economic relief, to further destabilize the region.
Boehner was just one of a number of prominent (and not so prominent) Republicans to weigh in on what they perceive to be a catastrophic deal. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois compared the agreement to Nazi appeasement, saying, “Neville Chamberlain got a lot of more out of Hitler than Wendy Sherman [a State Department negotiator] got out of Iran.”
Meanwhile, the doomsaying from certain U.S. media outlets has been quite innovative. “Surrender to Tehran,” comes courtesy of The National Review — they’ve also linked to an article from the Washington Times entitled, “A Deal with Iran Built on Lies.” Meanwhile The Weekly Standard goes for a more subtle approach, gesturing toward the wily charisma of Iran’s main negotiator in “The Charm of Minister Zarif.”
Newsmax has an array of doomsday headlines: “Israel: Iran Nukes Threaten the World, 'We Can't Allow it to Happen',” and “Democrats 'Skeptical' of Nuclear Deal With 'Deceptive' Iran,” among others. Leading light of the conservative media, and (shudder) America’s most-trusted news source, Fox News’ coverage does not disappoint. “US WIMP-OUT ON IRAN DEAL?” they posit. “France claims Kerry team caved to keep Iranians at the table, get a deal.” An op-ed on the site warns, “Iran nuclear deal dangerous step in wrong direction.”
Conservative America’s favorite lost cause, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, has been trying his hardest to put a spanner in the works. On Thursday, Netanyahu claimed that a nuclear deal stemming fro the currently agreed-upon framework would “threaten the survival of Israel.” In a phone conversation with Obama, Netanyahu also said that such a deal would “increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war.” The Israeli government will continue to “strongly oppose” the deal he said, in comments that are unlikely to improve the foundering friendship between the U.S. and Israel.
After a meeting with ministers Friday, Netanyahu announced that he would not accept a deal “which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons.” He said that Iran must recognize Israel’s right to exist as a precondition to any agreement (despite the fact that Israel did not participate in the Lausanne-based talks).
But, in the midst of this passive-aggressive (and aggressive-aggressive) response, qualified support for the deal has come from an unlikely quarter. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are anxious that rehabilitating Iran could make the once-isolated nation’s already meddlesome foreign policy even more audacious — with dire consequences for the region. But, as the Guardian’s Ian Black reports, Riyadh has given a measured, public welcome to the deal reached Friday. In a telephone conversation with Obama, King Salman said he hoped that the final deal would strengthen stability and security in the region.
Oman, Iran’s most stalwart friend in the Gulf, called the agreement historic. Turkey expressed pleasure at the deal, and hoped that the parties would reach a more extensive final arrangement. But Sami al-Faraj, a Kuwaiti security advisor to the Gulf Cooperation Council, relayed the unease that Arab countries have expressed in the past:
If Iran ever gets away with possessing a nuclear capability one day, we will consider the international community responsible for that at these negotiations… We will feel free to go and look for a counterweight.
Eager to quell such fears, Obama has said that the deal, once fully implemented, would “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.” But he has a battle on his hands in Washington. Republicans, who are eager to undermine any agreement reached if they deem it too "soft" on Iran, control both the Senate and Congress. Meanwhile, negotiations are set to continue for another three months, as diplomats attempt to hammer out a final deal.
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