by Peter Foster
One of the most unfortunate pieces of White House spinning over the Iran nuclear negotiations is that those who supported new sanctions legislation – including several Democrat senators – were effectively "voting for war".
They weren't. What they were voting for was an alternative way of dealing with Iran. A more results-driven and fact-based approach, that clashes with several of the premises that underpin the current Kerry-Obama approach to the negotiations.
The new Senate sanctions bill (now successfully stalled, it seems) didn't call for new sanctions straight away. What it did was seek to put a hard floor under the negotiations process: if no deal was reached within 12 months – the six months of the "interim deal" plus six months grace – then the sanctions would kick in.
There was good reason for this approach. Sceptics – or perhaps better, pragmatists – didn't want Tehran to keep endlessly rebooting the negotiations. Their fear was that Iran would simply wait while their economy picked up as sanctions started to unravel under the weight of market expectations and then cut a deal from a position of strength.
Mr Obama always vigorously refuted this analysis as scaremongering, saying sanctions were "limited" and "reversible", and that Iran's feet would held to the fire to ensure they did actually cut a meaningful deal.
Already, however, there are signs that the pragmatist's analysis has turned out to be correct. First it emerged last month that Russia was engaged in negotiating a $1.5 billion-a-month backdoor trade/barter deal.
Then, this week, a group 116 of France's top businessmen, including representatives from companies like Renault, Total and Airbus, visited Tehran on a trade mission offering further evidence that market expectation is picking up: when German CEO's see their French counterparts racing to Tehran to get first dibs on any deals, you can bet they won't be far behind.
In both of these cases the White House and State Department has officially cried foul, describing the French delegations and Russian deals as "unhelpful" and of "serious concern".
Perhaps they really are concerned, fearing that their negotiating leverage is visibly ebbing away, since it's hard to drive a bargain with Tehran to give up its nuclear programme when Iran is getting what they want (economic relief) anyway.
But there is another theory – that this is precisely what the White House wants. Look at this quotation from Wendy Sherman, the US's top Iran negotiator, giving evidence to a senate committee this week in response to the French trade gambit.....