The White House has lost Thomas Friedman on Iran

The strategic blunders of the opponents of a prospective nuclear accord with Iran keep piling up.

First, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s disastrous decision to address a joint session of Congress just weeks before his country’s parliamentary elections galvanized the Iran deal’s opponents. On Tuesday, he won a dramatic victory for a fourth term as prime minister.

Second, the Senate GOP’s open letter to the government of the Islamic Republic warning that the upper chamber of Congress would have to ratify a deal in order for it to outlast the Obama presidency has also failed to reflect negatively the letter’s signers. Two recent Rasmussen Reports surveys found that 60 percent of the public believes an Iran deal is unlikely to prevent the state from nuclearizing, and another 60 percent believe the 47 Republican senators were right and Congress should play a role in nuclear negotiations with Iran.

In fact, the president has been put so far back on his heels over his rush toward a nuclear agreement that even his erstwhile allies are questioning the logic of the diplomatic push. The latest of the administration’s friends to get cold feet over the White House’s policy toward Iran is New York Times columnist Tom Freidman. In his most recent piece, Friedman wonders, given that the White House has facilitated the expansion of Iranian influence across the region, why the administration thinks it can compel Tehran to accept a deal that limits its ability to nuclearize at a time of its choosing.

“Geopolitics is all about leverage, and we are negotiating with Iran without the leverage of a credible threat of force,” Friedman wrote.

He went on to note that, while the threat posed by the abhorrent Islamic State is a grave one, it’s a questionable U.S. policy to welcome Iran’s service as a proxy army in that war. “Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?” he pondered.

Politico went on to summarize Friedman’s fatalistic take on Iran’s growing influence and what he believes is Tehran’s understanding of the limited upsides associated with a nuclear deal:

Though Republicans have criticized the president for working toward what Netanyahu calls a “bad deal,” many supporters of the negotiations remain hopeful that a final agreement will stave off a nuclear Iran and reincorporate the regime into the international community.

Friedman believes this is pure fantasy. “[T]he past has carved so much scar tissue into that landscape that it’s hard to see anything healthy or beautiful growing out of it anytime soon.”

“Sorry to be so grim,” the columnist concludes.

It’s perhaps slightly less than a canary in the coal mine to learn that Friedman has grown uncomfortable with Iran’s creeping influence over the Middle East, but it is a welcome sight nonetheless.