Zakaria: No Nuke Deal? Don't Just Blame Tehran

Right now, the main hurdles to an agreement come from other quarters

  • Reuters

    The French balked at a deal with Iran over concerns about the Arak plutonium reactor, which may give Tehran a quicker path to nuclear weapons than enriched uranium.

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    Saudi Arabia is also not going to accept any deal, no matter what is in it. Saudi objections to the Islamic Republic of Iran are existential. The Saudis regard Tehran as a heretical, Shi'ite, Persian enemy that must be opposed relentlessly and unequivocally. Its antipathy predates Iran's nuclear program and will persist regardless of how it's resolved.

    And then there are the Republicans in the U.S., some of whom have serious objections and others who see this as an easy avenue to outflank President Obama on the right, placing him in the familiar spot of the liberal Democrat who is soft on America's foes.

    Many of us have assumed that the greatest obstacle to a deal would come from Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards remain deeply anti-American, and they may well oppose the concessions that President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would have to make to get a deal. But it is now clear that greater obstacles might lie in the path of the negotiators on the other side. The minute any deal is announced, Saudi Arabia and Israel will denounce it, and many Republicans will join in. Given that Congress would have to pass laws to lift any of the major sanctions against Iran, this could prove to be an obstacle that cannot be overcome.

    Obama now faces two massive challenges. First he has to get a deal that the hard-liners in Tehran can live with, and then he has to get one that hard-liners in Washington can abide. If he can do both, maybe he will deserve his Nobel Peace Prize after all.


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