The unsurprising result: The United States—which began the nuclear talks from a position of strength—has acted throughout the negotiations like the weaker party. The U.S. visibly hungered for a deal, and Iran took advantage of that hunger. One noteworthy milestone on the way to the U.S. collapse was the July decision to grant a six-month extension of the nuclear talks just 20 days after Secretary John Kerry had published an op-ed in The Washington Post warning that no extension would be forthcoming unless Iran showed “genuine willingness to respond to the international community’s legitimate concerns.” Iran instead remained obdurate—and got the extension anyway. From that point onward, the Iranian negotiators had every reason to believe that they had gained the upper hand against their weaker-willed foes.
The rulers of Iran brilliantly upended the whole grammar of the negotiation. Instead of offering their nuclear program to get rapprochement, they began offering rapprochement in exchange for the U.S. accepting a higher level of Iranian nuclear capacity. They convinced the Americans that the thing Iran most desperately needed—a rapprochement with the United States—was in America’s interest even more than theirs. They convinced the Americans that it was America, not Iran, that should therefore make nuclear concessions to achieve this rapprochement. In the annals of flimflam, there stand few more impressive achievements. We are heading toward an outcome in which Iran will not only get everything it wanted, but also will pay nothing for it. And not only will the U.S. have been thoroughly scammed, but the victims of the scam will brief friendly journalists about their diplomatic triumph—and, even more pitifully, will believe it.