This week’s developments illustrate the role of diplomat as manager, persuader, and demagogue. Secretary Kerry must negotiate with the Iranians and the Group of 6, his own government (interagency, internal State, White House, and of course, Congress), sell it to the various publics, and the constituent partners in the Middle East and Europe.
“The time to oppose it is when you see what it is,” he said, “not to oppose the effort to find out what is possible.”
But with the prospect of a deal suddenly more real than it has been for a decade, Mr. Kerry is having to fend off those who want to pre-empt it. He is insisting to allies that the United States will drive a hard bargain with the Iranians and doing his best to dispel rumors.
The latest round of talks failed, he said, not because of dissent from France, as has been reported, but because the Iranians rejected an offer put on the table by the French, along with the United States, Britain, China, Germany and Russia. “The French signed off on it; we signed off on it,” Mr. Kerry said. “There was unity, but Iran couldn’t take it.”
He offered familiar arguments as well: Without diplomacy, he said, Iran is much more likely to obtain a nuclear bomb, which would set off an arms race in the Middle East and leave everyone less secure. He even raised his own service in Vietnam as a reminder of war’s futility.
Still, the forces arrayed against a deal are diverse and potent: Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim states, as well as a sizable contingent of Iran hawks in Congress. Mr. Netanyahu, who warned that Geneva was shaping up as a “deal of the century” for Iran, is calling on other leaders to rally opposition. An Israeli minister, Naftali Bennett, is mobilizing Jewish groups in the United States to try to block it.