The Nuclear Negotiations
Iran Avoids the Outstretched Hand

In a blustery speech at New York University today, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif drew a hard line on the ongoing nuclear negotiations. He started by calling into question American talking points on sanctions relief, which Zarif said would have to be implemented as soon as the deal was signed. Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin reports:

“[President Obama] will have to stop implementing all the sanctions, economic and financial sanctions that have been executive order and congressional. However he does it, that’s his problem,” Zarif said. “The resolution will endorse the agreement, will terminate all previous resolutions including all sanctions, will set in place the termination of EU sanctions and the cessation of applications of all U.S. sanctions.”

He then moved on to the question of Congressional authority:

“As a foreign government, I only deal with the U.S. government. I do not deal with Congress,” Zarif said. “The responsibility of bringing that into line falls on the shoulders of the president of the United States. That’s the person with whom we are making an agreement.” […]

The U.S. would have to endorse this resolution “whether Senator Cotton likes it or not,” Zarif said

(Senator Cotton, for his part, was quick to shoot back on Twitter.)

Zarif ended his remarks with a threat, of sorts:

“If people are worrying about snapback, they should be worrying about the U.S. violating its obligations and us snapping back,” he said. “That is a point that the United States should be seriously concerned about. This is not a game.”

Earlier today we pointed out that the recent Iranian seizure of a merchant ship risked arousing Hamiltonians against the interference with free navigation; by challenging the U.S. so openly on the few remaining points of what even many centrist stablishment figures have come to see as a deal favorable to Iran, Zarif is risking building a strong coalition alongside an already-visible Jacksonian reaction against President Obama’s accommodative stance—a reaction that may prove more widespread than Iran’s rulers are bargaining for.

Is this posturing for domestic consumption by hardliners in Tehran? A quirky negotiating strategy the Foreign Minister thinks of as playing hardball? Are the Iranians really so ignorant of how American politics work? Or is Zarif just trying to torpedo the agreement—an agreement that the Iranian leadership can’t live with and will probably walk away from, as Adam Garfinkle has argued is the case on several occasions in our pages? We will know soon enough.

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