November 11th, 2013
08:46 AM ET

Why some Iran deal critics may want talks failure

By Fareed Zakaria

It's difficult to know what to make of the failure to arrive at an agreement between the West and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program. The high level talks have ended, and negotiations are scheduled to resume at a lower level in 10 days.

Secretary of State John Kerry's comments seemed the most sensible. "It was always going to be hard to arrive at a deal with Iran when the mistrust was so deep and had gone on for so long," he said.

But what was remarkable was the tone of the negotiators as they broke up. Both the Iranians and the main Western negotiator, Catherine Ashton of the European Union, were positive and constructive, believing that much progress has been made.

There were voices that were much less positive. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized what he described as, "The deal of the century." His aides explained that Iran was going to get everything it wanted in return for nothing. "A mess of pottage," said one of them, making a biblical allusion.  The other critic of the deal appears to have been French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. France's hard-line position actually allowed Washington to look reasonable, though for some it proved that no matter what position the United States takes, you can count on France to try to sabotage it.

More from GPS: Bad deal worse than no deal

But the criticisms of the deal sound like alarmist hype to me. The basic agreement that might have been inked was that Iran would temporarily freeze its nuclear program, including its uranium enrichments in return for some relief from Western sanctions. During that period, about six months, serious negotiations would take place to arrive at a final agreement. The key here is what kind of sanctions relief were the Iranians going to get?

The answer is clear – not much. The Obama administration was not proposing that any of the major sanctions against Iran be lifted or even suspended. Those are all passed by the U.S. Congress and couldn't be lifted easily anyway.

Instead, it was proposing to take some pretty minor steps. Europe has more flexibility on sanctions, but, from what we've heard, those countries were also proposing relief of very small kinds.

Now, the argument is that Iran should make significant concessions, but that the West should make none at all. That's not negotiations, that's a requirement that the other side surrender. Which makes one wonder, do the critics of this negotiating process want a better deal or do they really want no deal at all so that it opens up another path to deal with the problem, which is war.

In that case, the danger for those critics was not that the Geneva negotiations were failing, but rather that they were succeeding.

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Topics: Iran • Nuclear

soundoff (95 Responses)
  1. Mjm nc

    What were the very small kinds relief details? Also , how would the 6 month suspension be monitored? Do we even know what / where to monitor anymore?

    November 11, 2013 at 9:18 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Iran can lay hands on the billions frozen abroad! It doesn't do much to relieve the economic pain. An interim deal would see Iran halting its nuclear activities for 6 months. The lifting of the sanctions should be incremental in accordance to the negotiation process. But Israel wants a Iran to bury its Uranium enrichment totally, which Iran refuses.

      November 12, 2013 at 8:04 am | Reply
  2. KEVIN

    Why does France have such a major issue with the U.S.? I thought we were very close allies.

    November 11, 2013 at 9:34 am | Reply
  3. rightospeak

    The basic problem is that the only agency that listens to the American people is NSA. What people want is a balanced budget and peace in Middle East. Iran's nuclear program discussion is a farce. Does Kerry represent the best interest of the American people ? If we had a non-monopolistic media in the hands of many , maybe we would learn the truth.

    November 11, 2013 at 9:38 am | Reply
  4. Jeff

    There we go again. Why do we expect them to freeze their operation for almost no relief of sanctions? How does that make sense?

    Why do we put pressure on politicians and negotiators to be cheap when buying Peace but we fund wars with no limit whatsoever? Which one is really cheaper and better for us all?

    November 11, 2013 at 9:43 am | Reply
    • SpecialAgentOSO

      You need to do a little research Obama lifted sanctions on Iran without telling us.

      November 11, 2013 at 11:06 am | Reply
      • Jeff

        You quote the sanctions that were lifted if there is any truth to it.

        This is a major sanction that Obama signed into law against Iran from Wikipedia:

        On June 24, 2010, the United States Senate and House of Representatives passed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), which President Obama signed into law July 1, 2010. The CISADA greatly enhanced restrictions in Iran. Such restrictions included the rescission of the authorization for Iranian-origin imports for articles such as rugs, pistachios, and caviar. In response, President Obama issued Executive Order 13553 in September 2010 and Executive Order 13574 in May 2011, and Executive Order 13590 in November 2011.

        November 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • rkfrom ny

      Well said, Jeff. I couldn't agree more!

      November 11, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  5. joe d

    israel and AIPAC..the root of all evil...we need to kick the mentally retatrded spoiled inbred red headed stepchild called israel to the curb...they have riuned the U.S.

    November 11, 2013 at 9:47 am | Reply
    • Ron

      Really? Care to expand on this?

      November 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Reply
    • scarooni

      We already have made Israel the conventional weapons superpower of the Middle East so lets go for a NUCLEAR FREE MIDDLE EAST. Israel dismantles all its Nukes and Iran dismantles it whole nuclear program.

      November 11, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  6. timmorris

    A stubborn donkey will only move with a kind gesture and a an apple or carrot on a stick. It seems everyone has a donkey in the corral. You need to learn how to care for them just like you care for your stallions. A child can be stubborn as well and also require apeasement by with something tasty. Is simple but some are just not equiped with any sense of real human dignity and where a faulse face and connot hide behind the door. We know your still their. No one gets off easy when wanten hardships are forced on an educated people and the innocent. don't be the fool in the room .

    November 11, 2013 at 10:07 am | Reply

    Kerry said the following on MTP:

    "The President has been willing and made it clear that he is prepared to use force with respect to Iran’s weapon, and he has deployed the forces and the weapons necessary to achieve that goal if it has to be achieved."

    Mr Zakaria apparently is willing to over look the fact that Mr. Obama himself thinks that war will be necessary if a deal is not made. The real question is, how much is Obama willing to water down a deal in order to avoid the war Kerry says Obama already taken the steps to deploy the forces needed to carry it out?

    November 11, 2013 at 10:23 am | Reply
  8. Bob

    Zakaria always reports with an agenda. He is probably an intelligence officer from Pakistan. He may even be working directly for the Iranians. I would not trust his reporting.

    November 11, 2013 at 10:37 am | Reply
    • mewcomm

      A bit over the top Bob. Though a good script for a movie!

      Fareed represents the establishment view (he is usually in step with the concensus Foreign Policy elites in the nation at large.) No not all. And he does break big sometimes. But he's hardly a spy. He couldn't be much more transparent! Laughs.

      And so what if he has an agenda? Do not most journalists have some level of bias in one manner or another? He's a smart guy. An influential voice. And he articulates Foreign issues like few others. Still he is one voice. Like you I look to other voices to counter some of Frareed's enthusiasm for rapprochement with various Islamic nations.

      November 11, 2013 at 11:05 am | Reply
    • Ron

      That's correct Bob. He has an agenda and I don't trust him nor do I go with the flow he forces readers to go through. Quite deceptive I would say.

      November 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  9. Tom1940

    The Iranians, having been told by the UN, U.S. and Israel that "a Nuclear Armed Iran" is not an option. Only one fact need be established, verified and acted upon: Complete dismantling and elimination of nuclear/atomic development inside Iran. Pure and simple. There is no "negotiating" to be done. There is only "compliance". The sooner the better. Every day of delay, means there is one day closer to being a nuclear mushroom cloud over Iran, and the announcement that Iran has now joined the Nuclear Club. How soon afterward will Hezbolloh, Al-Qaeda and a host of other Iranian supported groups around the world will make the same claim?

    November 11, 2013 at 10:51 am | Reply
    • Cyrus1978

      You sound like a moron who lives in his mom's basement. Thanks to people like you this world has turned this ugly. But it is never too late to learn so pull your head out of your bottom so that you can see the world and reality again.

      November 11, 2013 at 11:46 am | Reply
      • Spider Mcguire

        I see here a lot of put-downs of the poster, but no intelligent arguments regarding the positions stated.Sounds like your more likely to be living in Moms' basement.

        November 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • scarooni

      We already have made Israel the conventional weapons superpower of the Middle East so lets go for a NUCLEAR FREE MIDDLE EAST. Israel dismantles all its Nukes and Iran dismantles it whole nuclear program.

      November 11, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  10. dustpup

    Are we done with Israel yet?We've saved them, given them other people land, helped them grow and prosper now its time to cut them loose.

    November 11, 2013 at 10:52 am | Reply
    • Ron

      If I was as ignorant of the history between Israel and the US as you seem to be, I would be embarrassed to post on this discussion board.

      November 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Reply
      • rightospeak

        So why did you post , Ron ?

        November 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  11. mewcomm

    Fareed's GPS is the ONLY Sunday morning program I watch. Albeit time shifted unless it's a big News day like yesterday.

    It's easily the smartest Foreign Affairs / Globalist program on TV (whatever TV is anymore).

    That said, on to the topic. Please count me in the "Critic who wants 'failure" Column. Or rather the Iranian failure. And yes, military action has been talked about sooooo long in this instance, It's likely it's unlikely, the Israeli's will go it alone, the Israeli's will do it in tandem, it's off the table, it's in deep background...... ad nauseum

    If going to "War" in Iraq and Af/Pak was justifiable at the time, then surely the specter of a nuclear armed Iran is justified at present.

    Beyond all the very fine Strategic and Political analysis offered by guests on GPS. (Richard Haas/ Ann Marie Slaughter/ Brett Stephens/ etc.) It's really a much simpler scenario. Ask yourself. Your walk into a tough bar by mistake and you can't walk out before you finnish your meal/drink. Who do you want to be sitting with? Barrack Obama? or Bebe Netanyahu?

    November 11, 2013 at 10:58 am | Reply
  12. SpecialAgentOSO

    Why did Obama secretly lift sanctions imposed on Iran without telling anyone and before a deal with Iran was even brokered? Is this what a President should do–make secret deals with our enemies?

    November 11, 2013 at 11:05 am | Reply
    • mewcomm

      To answer your question. "Is this what a President should do......"

      In this instance no. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine students in the future will ever read about the Obama Foreign Policy team with the same awe as we did reading about George Kennan, Averell Harriman, Paul Nitze, Dean Acheson, Paul McCloy....

      As an observer, it's difficult to imagine that Foreign Policy Elites on both sides of the aisle have got to be nervous about President Obama's conduct of Foreign Affairs. From the very beginning of his administration to the present it has been a helter skelter rush to appear to be doing something. And maybe the all connected world has changed the pace of diplomacy in that regard. Still, Please Secretary. Kerry..... can you just sit land your aircraft and be quiet for a while?

      November 11, 2013 at 11:17 am | Reply
    • JOE SARR


      November 11, 2013 at 11:39 am | Reply
  13. G14

    Those who want war are not those who will fight in one. They are those who believe that war can end the nuclear program but it won't. More countries will revolt if Iran is striked for no good reason (meaning they have issued orders to attack a neighbor). An agreement that Iranians will be obliged to abide by will be the best solution to this conflict and they just have to take their time to figure things out. Targeted effective strikes might be good to buy time. If economic sanctions will continue in the advent of effective targeted strike or major sabotage, the result might be an Iran that will be eager to negotiate but I don't think that will be the case so the only chance to a solution that wouldn't cost Iranian lives is a deal and they should take their time to figure things out. One more thing, those who say Iran should have nukes since Isreal has, don't understand that Sovereignthy is not a gift from God, it is a consent by neighbors which means Iranian territory can be conquered by a superior race and the only thing that will save it is good friendships not isolation. Iran cannot survive by isolating itself rather she will be taken out if other players can't trust her. Nukes won't protect Iran it make Iran a threat to middle east security and so a non nuclear war will be better than a war of nuclear armed middle east. It would be prefered if the program is made transparent.

    November 11, 2013 at 11:15 am | Reply
    • Sattar Beheshti.

      A bad agreement means having nuke bomb by all the terrorists in the region in couple of years.
      Signing the agreement papers without any access to all sites (the regime of Iran name some sites military with no inspection permit!) and control and real inspection is fooling the world.

      November 11, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  14. Plagiarism

    I wonder who wrote this one.

    November 11, 2013 at 11:49 am | Reply
  15. Ehsan

    Natanyahoo regime is alive based on hate and war... As soon as we start negotiate, his regime and his supporters see how the regime goes down... They will stop any negotiations at any cost.

    November 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Reply
  16. Ehsan

    We didn't come to a deal because our owners in Israel said NO...

    November 11, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Reply
  17. Tim Gray

    I'm anti sanctions, especially when dealing with Cuba or other countries just for the sake of sanctions because history tells us with Germany after WWI that sanctions hurt the world economy just as much as the country you are trying to influence. However, in the case of Iran, it's a different ball game. We aren't simply trying to punish Iran, we are trying to prevent them from getting their hands on the most dangerous weapon known to man. The visible leader of Iran is a toy soldier, parading before the world as though he's in charge. He can be a tyrant like the previous leader or a kinder, gentler once like the one now but the true and only power in Iran is the one who has been in charge of Iran during both "Presidents", the man behind the curtain. Why would France care more about the United States? Because they are closer to the range of a short range missile with a nuclear warhead. Iran can't hit us short of borrowing technology from the good Neighbor Pakistan(our wonderful ally who's buddies from Al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban share safe haven) or the great country of North Korea, who would love the day that Iran, with their mentally unstable real leadership, would fire a Nuke at Israel or the United States. So why would they not share that technology? We already know with proof from Pakistan's nuclear bomb maker, that he provided help to Iran to make Nuclear weapons. It's, what's a kind word here, naive to think Iran would pay for and get this information so they can provide electricity to the great wizard of Oz.

    So instead of focusing on the two reactors, let's question where the rods are that we know have already left the nuclear facility and went to underground labs for purification. let's not lift any sanctions, period, until the entire country is swept and studied and all facilities are accounted for and reviewed, and locked down, and uranium destroyed. Any enrichment should be done by third party countries, period. As shown above, their desire for nuclear weapons should restrict them from doing this. Short of this, not only should sanctions be increased but a complete blockade of the country should take place. The danger of the leaders of this country trumps everything. Logic thinking isn't in their vocabulary. They are a bully and menace to not only Israel but all countries in that region. In fact, they are the problem with the Israel/Palestinian solution with it's support of Hezbollah and Hamas. They have hijacked their own people and are looking for that golden bullet to hijack the world. What they need is time and cover. "Negotiating" gives them both.

    November 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Reply
    • American

      Deluding ourselves that Iran isn't actively building nuclear weapons, and believing their lies that their efforts are only for peaceful purposes means we come to the table already having lost and negotiation. It doesn't matter what Israel says or does. Nor France. Our own self-deception is paramount here. The time to treat Iran with the respect needed to trust their assurances is long past.

      November 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  18. akpabsy

    I simply hope both sides can forge a common front. This has gone on for too long.

    November 11, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Reply
    • rkfrom ny

      Thank you, akpabsy. How true that rings! Unfortunately for their own self interests, some people in position want another war no matter how much suffering and misery it brings!

      November 11, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Reply
  19. notrade

    Dear Creator: We have tried to do your will on Earth as it is in Heaven. But we have failed you ! so I ask you to remove all curses that have come to all nations and allow all nations to have your spirit hoover over their land, let your awesomeness and joy abound, let us who are in darkness be filled with light. SO BE IT

    November 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  20. Tom

    When hezbollah use the mushroom cloud as their flag it is pretty evident which side wants war and has been deceiving the west (except France and Israel apparently).

    November 11, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  21. JAL

    Allow the success to radiate. The main effort has already been exerted. It is time to lighten up.

    November 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Reply
  22. notrade

    Dear Creator: I also come to you and ask you to bring every government in the world together to come into this agreement to make the worlds monitary system fair for all countries in the world, and let them no that un egual trade will lead the world to destruction. let them see that the world is attatched by the econimical system and has become one body and if certain parts of the worlds body starts to die eventually the whole body will die. SO BE IT

    November 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  23. JC

    Oh boy. Wether its small moves on the sanctions or not, you cannot just forget about the fact that the new president has said for years how he could get the US to play the game while Iran continued to build nuclear weapons in secret. But most importantly, you are upset that the critics want to see Iran move first, and blast it as counterproductive, yet when the Obama administration demanded an all or nothing with the GOP that was just fine. I guess it all depends on who your elegiances lie wether you support bilateral negotiations or not.

    November 11, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Reply
  24. saywhat

    "Viva la France" cried McCain,Graham and their cohorts & Netanyahu gloated after France bombed the negotiations in lieu for multi billion dollar arms purchase carrot from Saudis.

    November 11, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Reply
  25. saywhat

    A step towards sanity has been thwarted. What now?
    With pressure from Israel & Saudis building up and US Congress on board madness would reign yet again in the M.East.
    Another war, death & destruction, unending cycle of violence, a whole region erupting??

    November 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Well put, saywhat. Thank you.

      November 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Reply
    • scarooni

      We already have made Israel the conventional weapons superpower of the Middle East so lets go for a NUCLEAR FREE MIDDLE EAST. Israel dismantles all its Nukes and Iran dismantles it whole nuclear program.

      November 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  26. saywhat

    Times of Israel reports" Israel will attack Iran if you sign this deal.French MP told Fabius".
    And so US subservience to tel Aviv and surrendering to their blackmail tactics will see us embroiled in another war of even more hellish proportions than Iraq or Afghanistan we cannot afford.
    Well if thats what we want, we get.

    November 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Reply
  27. Joseph McCarthy

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of right-wing thugs in Washington who'd like nothing better than another useless and unnecessary war to promote their political careers and further fatten up their bank accounts. Sadder still, most of the general public is ignorant enough to believe these horrific people and falsely perceive some kind of "glory" in these obnoxious wars. Moreover, no one should ever listen to the gutless wonders who now lead France. It's sad to think that once the French leaders could hold their heads high but that's no longer the case! All they do is take orders from Washington D.C.

    November 11, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  28. saywhat

    @Joseph McCarthy
    Rightly stated. A gullible general public wittingly or unwittingly bamboozled by politicians mongering fear, hate and paranoia has been led by the proverbial nose during these past 12 yrs.
    Time to wake up and take notice.

    November 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Reply
  29. Tim Gray

    oh brother. Some of the posts on here lack any intellectual thought. What the US was wanting to do was ignorant. Forget Israel and even all the rest of the countries there, minus Syria who thinks this deal was a bad ideal, it's not about them, it's about any deal not only proving they aren't on their way to making weapons, it should have been about taking away the ability to do so. And that could be done by controlling the enrichment process by a third party, namely Russia perhaps or China. They keep saying they don't want Nukes but they paid billions for blueprints and parts to build a nuclear bomb and how to enrich uranium to over 90% from the Pakistani nuclear scientist. So Iran is coming into this with a lie. Trust and verifying is great when what you need to trust and verify is part of the deal

    November 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • scarooni

      We already have made Israel the conventional weapons superpower of the Middle East so lets go for a NUCLEAR FREE MIDDLE EAST. Israel dismantles all its Nukes and Iran dismantles it whole nuclear program.

      November 11, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Reply
    • American

      Deluding ourselves that Iran isn't actively building nuclear weapons, and believing their lies that their efforts are only for peaceful purposes means we come to the table already having lost and negotiation. It doesn't matter what Israel says or does. Nor France. Our own self-deception is paramount here. The time to treat Iran with the respect needed to trust their assurances is long past.

      November 11, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Reply
      • rkfrom ny

        Well put, American.

        November 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  30. farid

    These soldiers of supreme leaders of Tehran are the same soldiers that climbed up the USA embassy in Tehran and killed the USA soldiers with exploring the bombs and side road mines in Beirut, Iraq, Afghanistan.....

    November 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Reply
    • rightospeak

      They climbed the American embassy,farid, because the last time the removal of their democratically elected president , Mossadegh ( I think I spelled it right ), and his kidnapping WAS DIRECTED FROM THE BASEMENT of the American embassy in Tehran. They did not want to lose their leader again.

      November 11, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Reply
      • farid

        Occupying the embassy is breaking the international rules. This regime ignore all international rules like human right.
        This regime is opposite of Mossadegh from "Jebeh meli" party, because they murdered Forouhar and his wife the leader "Jebeh meli" party in their house with the knife
        They killed Thousands of Iranian without holding court just because they wanted real free election and democracy.

        November 11, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
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