British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters on Friday that the deal to create a framework to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions will not be written down and will be short on specifics.
Of course, this leaves both sides with the ability to spin the framework deal any way they wish. Obama can proclaim the mullahs will be in a box and Iran can trumpet their victory over the decadent west once a permanent deal is negotiated by July 1.
Practically speaking, it’s the only way to advance the negotiations. Both sides are still far apart on a number of issues with no hope of resolving anything by the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement.
No specifics, nothing written, perhaps not even anything that Iran and the international negotiating partners say as one—that’s the most to expect out of the nuclear talks now running up against the deadline in Switzerland, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Friday.
But even concluding this round of talks with that level of ambiguity, Hammond said, would count as a significant success. And he thinks they’ll get it.
“We envisage being able to deliver a narrative. Whether that is written down or not, I don’t think is the crucial issue,” Hammond told reporters at the British ambassador’s residence during a visit to Washington. “This will be a political statement, or perhaps political statements from the [negotiating partners] and Iran which create enough momentum to make it clear that we’ve now got this boulder over the hill and we are into the detailed work to produce an agreement.”
Whether that will happen by Sunday, as some have indicated, is an open question, Hammond said. He said he’s expecting to fly to Switzerland soon, but wouldn’t commit to a specific date of arrival.
Other sources are also now casting doubt on recent speculation that a deal would come by Sunday.
In short, not much of a “framework” at all. But putting lipstick on a pig and trying to sell the deal as a triumph of diplomacy is better than nothing, as the administration sees it.
Senators demanding details are likely to be disappointed. Might this mean the long delayed vote on forcing the president to keep Congress in the loop and slap additional sanctions on Iran will finally take place?
Republicans say they have veto proof majorities for both bills as Democrats are also tired of Obama’s games.
What form any agreement takes could determine the reactions from senators who have threatened to oppose a nuclear agreement if they deem it insufficiently tough. Some senators have insisted on seeing Iranian commitments in written form before they’d agree not to vote for legislation that the White House says would blow up the talks.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said he sees no need for a written document describing an interim agreement in advance of the June 30 deadline for a comprehensive deal.
Hammond said no one should expect that kind of formal document.
“The challenge is: as soon as you write anything down, you’ve got to write everything down,” Hammond said.
So write it down. If Iran and the west don’t see eye to eye on important issues that would lead to an agreement, what’s the point of continuing negotiations?
The point is, a failure to reach an agreement with Iran means that other ways must be found to stop them from getting a bomb. At least a deal could be spun as the west successfully curbing Iran’s nuclear bomb program — even if it does no such thing. No deal means re-authorizing sanctions or bombing their nuclear infrastructure.
There is no stomach in the west for either of those options, hence, this game of “pretend” where we make believe that a deal could stop the Iranians from developing a “break out” nuclear bomb program, and that we’d actually do something about it even if they did construct a weapon.
The level of cynicism it takes to try and sell this framework deal to the American public and Congress is extraordinary. But failure would be seen as a personal blow to Obama and damage his legacy.
The idea that these things are more important than the safety and security of the US and our allies is something to behold.