What Everyone Is Saying About the Iranian Nuclear Deal

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John Kerry celebrates.
John Kerry celebrates. Photo: Alexander Klein/AFP/Getty Images

Over the weekend, while you were trying your best not to go outside, John Kerry and his European friends were agreeing to a historic deal with Iran. The United States and five major allies agreed to ease about $7 billion worth of sanctions against Iran in exchange for the halting of certain nuclear activities. The interim pact will last for just six months, during which time the two sides will work toward reaching a more permanent deal to end Iran's nuclear-weapon ambitions. As with most things that concern the Middle East, there is some disagreement about whether or not this is a good thing:

People Who Hate This Deal:

John Bolton, Weekly Standard:

This is not, as the Obama administration leaked before the deal became public, a “compromise” on Iran’s claimed “right” to enrichment. This is abject surrender by the United States.

William Kristol:

In light of the Geneva Agreement, I went back to read Winston Churchill's October 5, 1938, speech in the House of Commons on the Munich Agreement. 

Benjamin Netanyahu:

"What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it's a historic mistake. It's not made the world a safer place. Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place."

Marco Rubio:

"This agreement shows other rogue states that wish to go nuclear that you can obfuscate, cheat, and lie for a decade, and eventually the United States will tire and drop key demands. Iran will likely use this agreement — and any that follows that does not require any real concessions — to obtain a nuclear weapons capability."

Daniel Pipes, National Review:

This wretched deal offers one of those rare occasions when comparison with Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938 is valid. An overeager Western government, blind to the evil cunning of the regime it so much wants to work with, appeases it with concessions that will come back to haunt it. Geneva and November 24 will be remembered along with Munich and September 29.

Victor Davis Hansen, National Review:

There is not a good record, from Philip of Macedon to Hitler to Stalin in the 1940s to Carter and the Soviets in the 1970s to radical Islamists in the 1990s, of expecting authoritarians and thugs to listen to reason, cool their aggression, and appreciate democracies’ sober and judicious appeal to logic — once they sense in the West greater eagerness to announce new, rather than to enforce old, agreements.

Chuck Schumer:

"It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders, that brought Iran to the table, and any reduction relieves the psychological pressure of future sanctions and gives them hope that they will be able to gain nuclear weapon capability while further sanctions are reduced," he said. "A fairer agreement would have coupled a reduction in sanctions with a proportionate reduction in Iranian nuclear capability."

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post:

We are in essence paying Iran $5 billion to $10 billion, which it can use to continue enriching and of course sponsoring terrorists. The communist adage that capitalists would sell them the rope to hang the capitalist is turned on its head; we are now paying our enemies to manufacture the rope.

David Frum, CNN:

Iran has protected its top nuclear priority. The deal allows it to continue enriching uranium, a stark departure from previous U.S. policy and a clutch of U.N. Security Council Resolutions that declare enrichment by Iran illegal and unacceptable, period. If Iran was on the verge of a nuclear breakout, it might make sense to pay a high price to slow the Iranian nuclear program. If nuclear breakout was less imminent, the trade-off looks reckless.

Ari Fleischer:

Wall Street Journal editorial board:

President Obama is hailing a weekend accord that he says has "halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program," and we devoutly wish this were true. The reality is that the agreement in Geneva with five Western nations takes Iran a giant step closer to becoming a de facto nuclear power.

People Who Like This Deal:

Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg View:

On the other matter — actually preventing Iran from getting hold of a nuclear weapon — Obama and his Great Power partners have at least slowed the regime’s march across the nuclear threshold. If they’re not careful they could wind up legitimizing Iran’s nuclear ambitions (never forget that Iran’s leaders are lying when they insist they've built their nuclear program exclusively for peaceful purposes). But Obama and his partners seem to have bought a bit of time here.

Al Hunt, Bloomberg View:

Critics of a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, both in the U.S Congress and the Israeli government, need to answer a question: Is there a better alternative?

Fred Kaplan, Slate:

The Iranian nuclear deal struck Saturday night is a triumph. It contains nothing that any American, Israeli, or Arab skeptic could reasonably protest. Had George W. Bush negotiated this deal, Republicans would be hailing his diplomatic prowess, and rightly so.

Washington Post editorial board:

The agreement with Iran announced early Sunday in Geneva will cap the expansion of its nuclear infrastructure and lengthen the time Tehran would need for a “breakout” attempt to build a bomb. Though the accord is freighted with risk, it is worthy as an interim step — and preferable to the military action that might otherwise have been deemed necessary.

Lawrence Wilkerson and Kate Gould, Guardian:

The nuclear deal that the US just struck with Iran is nothing short of historic. This agreement is a victory for everyone who wants to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and a catastrophic war.

Chuck Todd and friends, NBC News:

In other words, we’ll find out six months from now if we’re on the road to dismantling Iran’s nuclear-weapons development, or if we’re on the road to war. But that date certain didn’t exist before this weekend’s deal. Yes, it’s a leap of faith. But it’s a leap that needed to be tried if you were ever going to justify military action. And don’t forget about this in all the political back-and-forth: This is the first true dialogue the United States has had with Iran in 34 years. That’s extraordinary.

Jeffery Lewis, Foreign Policy:

All in all, the interim agreement is a good deal. The parties have given themselves a six-month window to see if there is some way to impose a verifiable gap between Iran's extant nuclear weapons option and any decision to exercise that option, while easing Iran's isolation and avoiding another war in the Middle East. I can't say I am ever optimistic about negotiations, but this is probably our collected last, best chance. Not bad for government work.

Colin Kahl, Foreign Policy:

[T]he agreement is a positive first step toward the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The deal makes both a nuclear breakout and a "sneak out" using covert sites more difficult and easier to detect. As such, the Geneva deal is very much in the interest of the United States and our closest allies, including Israel.

New York Times editorial board:

The interim nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers is an important step toward resolving the increasingly dangerous dispute over Iran’s progress on production of a nuclear weapon. President Obama and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran deserve credit for resisting fierce domestic opposition and a 30-year history of animosity between the two countries to get to this point.

David Ignatius, Washington Post:

The definition of a good agreement is that it’s one each side can sell to their publics, and that’s the case here. The agreement seems broadly positive for the United States and Israel, at the outer edge of what was possible in terms of freezing the Iranian nuclear program and providing daily inspections to check against any trickery. The world is safer from the Iranian nuclear threat today than it was a week ago. But it’s a good deal for Iran, too, and that’s going to upset those who wanted an Iranian capitulation. 

Peter Beinart, Daily Beast:

Kristol and Netanyahu have no remotely plausible alternative for fully dismantling Iran’s nuclear program, either. In place of the interim agreement, they want more sanctions, which Iran’s reformist government has said would doom any agreement. Or they want war, which former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who oversaw Israel’s Iran file from 2002 to 2010, has said would rally Iranians behind their regime, splinter the international coalition against Tehran, and thus ultimately increase Iran’s chances of getting a bomb.

Roger Cohen, New York Times:

Let us be clear. This is the best deal that could be had. Nothing, not even sustained Israeli bombardment, can reverse the nuclear know-how Iran possesses. The objective must be to ring-fence the acquired capability so its use can only be peaceful.

People Who Are Not Sure:

John McCain:

"While I am seeking more information on this interim agreement, it does appear that, if implemented, this agreement could modestly slow Iran's nuclear ambitions during the next six months. I am, however, concerned by particular elements of this agreement and some other elements that are left out."

Aaron David Miller, Politico Magazine:

This accord is less worrisome than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes, but not as compelling and reassuring as U.S. officials maintain. Using it to our advantage depends on keeping sanctions tight, monitoring intrusive and a credible military option on the table. Then there's figuring out exactly what we do six months from now if no comprehensive deal materializes? That would help too.

Ray Tayekh, Council on Foreign Relations:

The accord on Iran’s nuclear program provides some indisputable advantages for the West, such as imposing a measure of restraint on Iran’s nuclear trajectory and impeding its uranium enrichment to 20 percent. Still, the agreement acknowledges a set of principles that could condition a final agreement to Iran’s advantage. Going forward, the challenge of diplomacy will be to alter that calculus.