I’m in Berlin, not Lausanne, and I haven’t spoken to anyone associated with the Iran nuclear negotiations in more than a week. Though there is a lot of good journalism being produced out of the talks, it is still difficult to discern what is actually happening at this moment. Those predisposed to believe that these negotiations will bring about a non-violent solution to the Iranian challenge, and also quite possibly encourage the Iranians to be more moderate in their approach to their neighbors, seem somewhat optimistic that the West will make the necessary compromises to win Iranian approval. Those who believe that the West is about to capitulate to Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader, and set him on a path to the nuclear threshold seem to be praying that Iranian shortsightedness, or dumb luck on the part of the West, subvert these talks.
The more extreme positions on both sides are distasteful. The Pollyannas who not only seem to believe that Iran should be allowed to maintain an advanced nuclear infrastructure if it promises to behave nicely, but who also believe that this nuclear accord will somehow serve to convince the Iranians to moderate their approach to their neighbors and, for instance, stop sponsoring terrorism and murdering large numbers of people in Syria (among other places), are dangerous and naïve. On the other side, those who argue that no negotiated settlement will ever be good enough to keep Iran from the nuclear threshold—that only military action would guarantee an end to the Iranian nuclear program—believe that it is wise to start an actual war now in order to prevent a theoretical one later. If you believe that we are living in 1938, and that Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia are playing the role of Czechoslovakia, then I suppose this position makes sense. I don’t think we are there, however.