Tom Cotton, incoming Republican Senator from Arkansas, is calling for Congress to end negotiations with Iran. Noting this, Daniel Larison, in the American Conservative, writes that Paul Pillar (National Interest) has shown that the U.S. and its allies have gotten “by far the better side of the deal in the Joint Plan of Action.”
As Pillar concludes, “If negotiations were to go on forever under these terms, we would have no cause to complain to the Iranians.”
Cotton does Americans an enormous diservice by even implying that negotiations with Iran should end. What is the man thinking?
Cotton claims that Iran is “getting everything it wants,” but that is far from true. When the extension of talks was announced last month, Paul Pillar explained why the U.S. benefited the most:
Our side—the United States and its partners in the P5+1—got by far the better side of the deal in the JPOA. We got the fundamental bomb-preventing restrictions (including most significantly a complete elimination of medium-level uranium enrichment) and enhanced inspections we sought, in return for only minor sanctions relief to Iran that leaves all the major banking and oil sanctions in place. If negotiations were to go on forever under these terms, we would have no cause to complain to the Iranians.
Cotton is a typical Iran hawk in that he is intensely opposed to the diplomatic effort that has already made a nuclear-armed Iran less likely. His objection to the negotiations doesn’t seem to be based on the details of the current agreement, but stems instead from a reflexive rejection of diplomatic engagement with unsavory regimes. Like most hard-liners, Cotton simply asserts that the other side is getting the best of the deal because this is what hard-liners normally assume about any negotiation. The greatest danger for a hard-liner on Iran is the possibility that a final agreement could be reached that satisfies all parties and shows that successful diplomacy with Iran is possible, so it is understandable that hard-liners are prepared to do what they can to sabotage negotiations.