A president desperate to change the subject and a secretary of state desperate to make a name for himself are reportedly on the verge of an “interim” nuclear agreement with Iran. France called it a “sucker's deal.” France was being charitable.
The only reason Iran has come to the table after a decade of contemptuous stonewalling is that economic sanctions have cut so deeply — Iran's currency has collapsed, inflation is rampant — that the regime fears a threat to its very survival.
Nothing else could move it to negotiate. Regime survival is the only thing the mullahs value above nuclear weapons. And yet precisely at the point of maximum leverage, President Barack Obama is offering relief in a deal that is absurdly asymmetric: The West would weaken sanctions in exchange for cosmetic changes that do absolutely nothing to weaken Iran's nuclear infrastructure.
Don't worry, we are assured. This is only an interim six-month agreement to “build confidence” until we reach a final one. But this makes no sense. If at this point of maximum economic pressure we can't get Iran to accept a final deal that shuts down its nuclear program, how in God's name do we expect to get such a deal when we have radically reduced that pressure? A bizarre negotiating tactic. And the content of the deal is even worse. It's a rescue package for the mullahs.
It widens permissible trade in oil, gold and auto parts. It releases frozen Iranian assets, increasing Iran's foreign-exchange reserves by 25 percent while doubling its fully accessible foreign-exchange reserves. Such a massive infusion of cash would be a godsend for its staggering economy, lowering inflation, reducing shortages and halting the country's growing demoralization. The prospective deal is already changing economic expectations. Foreign oil and other interests are reportedly preparing to reopen negotiations for a resumption of trade in anticipation of the full lifting of sanctions.