The Iran saga is not quite as dull as Greece’s financial woes, but after years of rhetoric and meetings and soundbites, it doesn’t feel quite like the existential threat that it is.
Nobody wants an Iranian bomb; everybody thinks military action may one day be needed; nobody knows whether that would work; everybody thinks a deal is preferable; and nobody can agree what that deal should look like. This is partly because the goalposts keep shifting. It is one thing drawing red lines, but if those red lines move, they become a kind of salmon pink.
Negotiations require flexibility. There is no point demanding full sanctions, full infrastructure dismantlement and full inspection access 24/7 – the Iranians would walk away, leaving warfare. And it would be warfare, too. Iran would hit back hard. It is capable.
Obama understands this better than Netanyahu, and knows the carrot needs to be just as tempting as the stick is daunting.
But Netanyahu understands better than Obama that only pressure will make Iran compromise. He knows better than Obama that the threat of military action must be credible. And he knows better than Obama that Iran is not to be trusted.
Both men want Iran to be their legacy, but both want very different outcomes. How it ends is anyone’s guess. A bit like Greece.