Kenneth Pollack, a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center at Brookings and author of a recent book on the Iranian nuclear program, was interviewed this weekend in The Washington Post and on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS on the nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers that took place in Geneva last week. Pollack’s latest book, released in September, is entitled Unthinkable: Iran, The Bomb, And American Strategy and examines U.S. policy options for addressing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
In a column by Washington Post blogger Max Fisher, “What has to happen – and what can’t happen – for an Iranian nuclear deal to succeed,” Pollack analyzed the factors that have led to the latest negotiations and the obstacles that may complicate the path toward resolving the nuclear issue with Iran. Pollack took a long-range view of the opportunity before the international community, arguing that “I’m very hopeful about this, and even guardedly optimistic at this point in time, that we’re actually going to get a deal. And I absolutely believe that this may well be the best opportunity that we have ever had, and maybe that we will ever have, to get a deal with the Iranians, get it off the table and maybe even start a larger process of thawing the relations.”
On CNN, Pollack discussed implications of the disappointing outcome in Geneva with TIME Magazine editor-at-large Fareed Zakaria and Ploughshares Fund President Joseph Cirincione. Negotiators failed to settle on an interim agreement on the nuclear issue despite marathon talks and the participation of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and their counterparts from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Pollack noted that:
“I share both of your hope or expectation that this is a good deal…but the problems that have arisen make me a little bit more skeptical, a little bit more concerned.…The French objections don’t seem to be terribly meaningful … these are things that should be dealt with in a final status agreement between the two …It’s not really clear why the French decided to make an issue of this now. That makes me a little bit more concerned than I was going into this about how hard it may be to get [a final deal.]”
Watch their entire discussion here.
In principle, Biden as president could waive or suspend nearly all U.S. sanctions. In practice, the goal here is to make it politically unpalatable. In the end, I do think there will be re-engagement between Washington and Tehran, but the challenges facing Team Biden on Iran are pretty steep.