At a time when one of President Obama’s genuine achievements is under threat from the current occupant of the White House, Trita Parsi’s book Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy tells the story of the long and complex process that led to the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1.
There’s a lot in here I didn’t previously know, like the role of the Omanis in facilitating direct negotiations between the US and Iran where the real progress was made. While I knew that one of the greatest obstacles to the deal was Netanyahu (and his Congressional cheerleaders, both Democrat and Republican) I did not know that Netanyahu’s rhetoric of Iran as an existential threat to Israel has its origins not on the Israeli right but on the left, with Rabin and Peres. The role of John Kerry, while a more sceptical Clinton was Secretary of State, in getting the process established before becoming Secretary of State himself was also new to me.
Obama’s greatest achievement was coming after Bush and coming before Trump. His actual record is decidedly mixed, but the Iran deal represents a genuinely significant moment. It’s a shame that the current administration seems determined to abandon it. Yet in the same way that Netanyahu’s opposition eventually left Israel marginalised, Trump’s opposition might do the same for the US, if the Iranians play their cards right.
It’s clear that the Iranians are sticking to their side of the bargain. The increasingly desperate attempts by the Trump administration to justify walking away by dragging up all manner of issues that form no part of the agreement makes it clear that they know it too. If they do take that step, all the Iranians need to do is express their regrets and state their determination to continue to implement the agreement. The P4+1 will not walk away. Yes, without American involvement the process will be more challenging, but it need not end. Mr Trump may find that instead of making America great, he will be making America irrelevant.
If you have an interest in politics, this region, diplomacy or conflict resolution this is definitely worth reading.