Thursday, April 2, 2015

The 'framework'

Those who follow such things seem to think that the framework agreement on Iran's nuclear program is more detailed than was expected, which raises the chances that the remaining details can be resolved between now and June.  I can't say the details are all that crucial for me, since I think the dangers of Iran's nuclear program have been considerably exaggerated, but they are crucial for some people, including the parties to the talks.

If a successful conclusion is reached in June and if Congress can be kept from mucking up the works, it will be a clear triumph for all the  parties.  Among other things it will be a foreign policy win for the Obama admin, whose foreign policy record to date has been very mixed (at best).  But I would be wary of concluding that the path would then be open for quick normalization of U.S.-Iran relations.  Normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, which has been out of the headlines for a while now, is presumably going to be a fairly long process, and I see no reason to assume that the future course of Iran-U.S. relations will be different in that respect.

10 comments:

JS said...

Hi LFC,

I noted on Twitter a couple of days back that if this Iran deal were to go through, then between this and Cuba, Obama's FP legacy is going to look bizarrely good. It's a bit odd to me because there's really a lot about it that I don't like, in Obama's foreign policy I mean. But, these are two decades long deadlocks that are now broken through. I completely appreciate your point that neither of these will mean immediate total normalization, but looked at in a certain light, it still seems sort of amazing. Thoughts?

Peter T said...

I don't expect quick normalization, but it looks like the prospect of war is pretty much gone. Since war was always going to be a disaster, that's all to the good.

Whether this works out as a "win" for the US (other than in avoiding a colossal fuck-up) depends on whether the US can bring Iran into the system on its own terms (a la Soviet Union post detente), or whether Iran and other break-aways can continue to re-shape the system away from US dominance.

LFC said...

@js.
Yes, I basically agree with that. There is negative stuff on his FP ledger, but these two (Cuba, Iran) I think will mean his FP legacy may tip to the good side. Obama's '09 Nobel peace prize (was it '09?) seemed a little weird (what he did he get it for, a speech about rapprochement w the Muslim world?) but in retrospect might come to seem somewhat deserved...

@Peter T:
Yes, but more immediately it may be a matter of whether Iran moderates its support of e.g., Hezbollah, Assad, Houthis in Yemen. I don't esp. see that happening...

LFC said...

typo correction: what did he get it for

LFC said...

J.Otto Pohl, in a comment on R. Farley's LGM thread on this subject, suggested, perhaps tongue in cheek, that Obama is taking a page from Nixon's opening to China. But as I remarked at LGM, there's a difference in outlook. Nixon and Kissinger cared about 'geopolitics' basically to the exclusion of all other considerations, notably humanitarian ones. Obama doesn't share that sensibility. He, for example, sanctions drone strikes that kill innocents, but I imagine he agonizes about these kinds of decisions, about whether what he's doing is on balance necessary, justifiable, and/or right, in a way that Nixon never would have. (YMMV, I s'pose.)

LFC said...

Every time I'm over at LGM, I'm reminded of how much I tend to dislike their comment threads. The serious comments are a little hard to keep track of b/c of their nesting system; then on top of that there are all these people simply making jokes and wisecracks and witticisms to show how hip and cool and funny they are. Some of that is fine, but after a while it gets tiresome. I want to say: I know you're cool and funny, just go away so that people who actually want to discuss the OP can discuss it.

thusbloggedanderson said...

One slight basis to distinguish the Cuban example: friendship with Cuba has relatively little to offer the U.S. The Caribbean is not presently a trouble spot.

Whereas having a working relationship with Iran could be extremely useful to the U.S. I agree that normalization is difficult & unlikely, but we (and, perhaps, Iran) do have some extra incentives that aren't in play w/ Cuba.

... Trying to grok the material difference b/t bombing Cambodia without regret & regretfully zapping folks with drones, but I may need a drink first.

LFC said...

That's true re differing incentives Iran/Cuba. OTOH, the Cuba opening is further along, in the sense that the US and Cuba have already announced their intentions to normalize relations, open embassies (converting from the present 'interest section') etc, and are in talks about it. Plus some travel and economic restrictions have been eased already, though the main embargo I don't think has been lifted yet.

On the other pt: um, ok. Make mine a double (how does Passover wine w a shot of vodka sound? Kidding.)

---

btw, Aquinas's 3 criteria for just war were: sovereign authority, just cause, and right intention. But he was focused mostly on jus ad bellum not jus in bello (i.e. means). The drones issue is in large part the latter. (I'm reading a bk at the moment that is partly about just war theory.)

Peter T said...


"whether Iran moderates its support of e.g., Hezbollah, Assad, Houthis in Yemen".

I suspect that in Iran's eyes, it just got agreement that pursuit of a foreign policy at odds with the US one is not punishable by the Security Council. This is a stance that Russia and China (and sometimes France) agree with.

Does it mark a recognition by the US that it's ability to exact compliance no longer extends to middle powers?

LFC said...

Does it mark a recognition by the US that it's ability to exact compliance no longer extends to middle powers?


A good question. To what extent has the US had this ability in recent yrs? I'm not sure. Anyway, it's late here so I'll leave things at that for now.