Kerry: Iran deal could come in three months or less

We got all of that from a phone call?  Secretary of State John Kerry tells CBS’ Scott Pelley that Iran wants to cut a deal with the US to put an end to the standoff over its nuclear program, and that it might take just a few weeks to cinch.  If Iran can prove that its nuclear program is peaceful, Kerry says, then the US-Iranian relationship will improve “dramatically.”

Now all we have to do is believe that the Iranians will tell us the truth:

A bad deal is indeed worse than no deal at all, but … that was true in Syria, too. And yet Kerry and Barack Obama allowed themselves to get played into a diplomatic and military cul-de-sac that (a) allowed Vladimir Putin to take control of the diplomatic situation, which (b) forced the US to deal on Putin’s terms and (c) left Assad in charge of his own WMD disarmament, (d) making him indispensable (e) for probably the next few years which (f) puts an end to the US position that demands regime change, thanks to an agreement that (g) basically precludes any more American military intervention without one and possibly two more UN Security Council agreements for a Chapter VII response.  No wonder Iran is suddenly anxious to cut a deal with Kerry and Obama — it’s a fire sale on American credibility in the second term.

On the other hand, Iranian hardliners are not exactly cheering Hassan Rouhani as a conquering hero.  While some rushed to cheer the returning president, his motorcade also got greeted with eggs and shoes:

Hundreds of Iranians cheered President Hassan Rouhani on his return from New York on Saturday after his historic phone call with U.S. President Barack Obama but a smaller number of hardliners shouted “Death to America” and threw eggs and shoes at his official car leaving the airport, Iranian media reported. …

But about 100 conservative hardliners also appeared and, shouting the “Death to America” slogan common since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, pelted his official car with eggs and stones in protest at Rouhani’s diplomatic opening towards Washington, according to witness reports posted on Twitter.

The semi-official Mehr news agency ran pictures of groups of protesters holding up a Death to America placard and banging the sides of Rouhani’s limousine as it began to depart the airport. Mehr said one protester threw his shoes at the car, a gesture of deep insult in the Islamic faith.

Why pelt Rouhani? Do they think he went along with this rapprochement without permission?

But new high-level contacts with U.S. officials at the United Nations were unlikely to have happened without the approval of Iran’s clerical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the polarised reactions on Rouhani’s return hinted at the challenge he faces in getting hardliners especially in the powerful security elite behind his conciliatory approach.

It’s safer to egg Rouhani than to egg Khameini, of course. Khameini probably wants this kind of theater as a way for Western media to bolster Rouhani’s “moderate” credibility, hoping to push off the sanctions as much as possible while giving up as little as possible in their strategic pursuit of nuclear weapons.  It’s possible the Iranian mullahcracy has just given up on the project now as too costly and unlikely to shift the balance of power as long as the US remains committed to the region, but that’s going to take a massive amount of verification to truly establish — certainly a lot more than can be done in three months.