How’s that for a confidence builder, eh? While Barack Obama tried to put a sunny spin on the interim agreement with Iran in his Rose Garden speech, the Wall Street Journal found out that the final act of the negotiations mainly rested on American retreat at the bargaining table. In fact, the concessions began almost immediately in September 2013 and never stopped:

The White House decided a less ambitious agreement would be pursued. “As soon as we got into the real negotiations with them, we understood that any final deal was going to involve some domestic enrichment capability,” a senior U.S. official said, referring to the production of nuclear fuel, which has both civilian and military uses. “But I can honestly tell you, we always anticipated that.”

Crucially, the goal of the talks shifted—away from dismantling structures and toward a more complex set of limitations designed to extend the time Iran would need to “break out” and make a dash toward a nuclear weapon.

The end result left everyone puzzled about the value of the deal. A former IAEA inspection chief wonders why the US would leave Iran on the brink of making a nuclear weapon, even if they stay at that point for the next ten years:

“I’m a little puzzled by the political agreement,” said Olli Heinonen, a previous inspections chief at the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. “You’re going to leave Iran as a threshold state. There isn’t much room to maneuver.”

This was confirmed earlier today by Laurent Fabius, the French representative to the talks. Fabius told Europe1 Radio that France wanted to reject the deal, but Kerry preferred to capitulate to Iranian demands to get his “success,” an admission also noted by Arutz Sheva:

On Friday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio that France had rejected an original of the deal outline as “not solid enough”, and had held out for firmer conditions. However, Fabius told the radio station that the Iranian delegation had responded by threatening to walk out of the talks.

The French delegation was considered by observers to be one of the hardest bargainers of the P5+1 countries, a group which also included the U.S., Britain, Germany, Russia and China. Fabius told Europe 1 that France wants a firm deal “to prevent other countries in the Gulf such as Saudi Arabia from embarking on nuclear proliferation.”

Fabius said his rejection was of the same deal, the day before Kerry accepted it:

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who represented France in the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, revealed on Friday that his nation had rejected an original version of the deal reached the day before for not being “solid enough.”

Jeff Dunetz reminds us that the French have been unhappy with Kerry and the US in these negotiations for quite some time, as they saw the deal developing:

France felt the Americans were keeping France and the other negotiating partners in the dark about the talks. Rather it being P5+1, it has really been the U.S. only talking to Iran. And the French negotiators complained in private the Americans were trying to “force them to make concessions on issues like the number of centrifuges allowed or sanctions.

The French ambassador to the US tweeted his displeasure at the beginning of March, “We want a deal. They need a deal. The tactics and the result of the negotiation should reflect this asymmetry.”

Instead, it reflects the asymmetry of Barack Obama’s political woes here in the US, especially on foreign policy. The Iranians, whose economy had been choked off by sanctions and whose mullahs faced serious unrest as a result, should have been the desperate party. Instead, Obama and Kerry came into the negotiations determined to cut a deal at any cost, as long as it had enough fig-leaf coverage to last past Obama’s exit from the White House.

It’s not fooling too many people — not Israel, not the Sunni nations that will come under Iran’s thumb, and not the Washington Post, either. It’s certainly not fooling the mullahs.