Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ironies of IR: The Friend of My Enemy is ... Confused

Lots of debate about the Iran deal.  I spent way too much time arguing back and forth with a relative who insisted that the US could have gotten a better deal.  I wish David Lake had written this sharp post before I got engaged in that argument since David* said it for me. 
*  David Lake came to UCSD a year or two before I left, so people sometimes think that he was my adviser, especially since I appeared in a volume he co-edited just a few years later.  I don't mind since David is very well-respected by most folks in the field, because my approach to IR is not that dissimilar, and because he actually has been super-helpful to me over the years, including inviting on board that first edited volume.
Whether the deal is good or bad is one question.  Another question is to consider what impact various actors had.  And I want to pick on Netanyahu.  Why?  Because it is so easy?  Because I am delighted to see him angry and frustrated?  Perhaps.

Netanyahu has bitterly opposed not just this deal but pretty much the entire negotiations.  It seems that he would prefer for the US to fight yet another Mideast war, this time for Israel (and maybe Saudi Arabia).**   What has been the effect of this opposition?  Well, besides alienating Obama even further, it might just have made the deal more legitimate in the eyes of the Iranians.  Any Iranian politician, but especially those worried about hardliners, would have to ask themselves, if I make this deal, will it appear that we are caving into Israel?   That the deal is too soft?  That we should have negotiated harder with more super-willpower?  Netanyahu's opposition allows those in Iran to make the claim that the deal is so good for Iran that Israel is doing its best to oppose it.  Netanyahu is making it easier for the Iranians to make this deal.  Probably not his intention, but this is my guess (not being an expert on Iranian politics, but knowing something about the domestic politics of foreign policy). 
** How do those who argue that the Israel Lobby is all powerful in the US make sense of Obama choosing a course of action directly counter to Israel's preferences?  (When I say Israel, I mean Netanyahu, as we have seen a number of intel and security types in Israel be far less upset about this deal) 
Others may have made the same argument I am making here--I am too addled by frisbee injuries and reading too much meta-IR theory to remember where I have read what, so apologies if I am repeating what others have said.

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