In today's Washington Post, I lay out out the contours of a deal between Iran and the the “P5+1” - the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany. Here's an excerpt:
For any deal to stick, it has to be accepted by two groups. There are reasons to think Iran’s hard-liners, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, might be amenable. Khamenei has consolidated power: He has beaten back the Green movement; accommodated one key rival, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; and sidelined another, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Khamenei has also given himself room to make concessions on the nuclear program.
Consider this categorical statement he made in February: “The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons . . . because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.” Khamenei might well have been laying the ground to explain concessions to his audience at home.
The Obama administration’s strategy is to tell Iran: All we are asking is that you demonstrate this in concrete actions. That’s a smart way to frame its demands. But if Iran does make concessions, the United States would have to accept them and relax some sanctions. And this is where the second important group, Republicans in Washington, could be an obstacle. If they demagogue any deal, or refuse to reciprocate on sanctions, there will be no deal.
The administration has handled its allies, Russia, China, the United Nations and even Tehran with skill. To succeed, however, it has to tackle its most formidable foe, with whom it has not had much negotiating success: Republicans.