Years ago I took the MIT–Harvard program on negotiation. It was there that I learned the term BATNA, Best Alternative to a Negotiated Settlement. Before entering into any kind of bargaining session you should know in advance what you would do if no agreement can be reached. Then you measure this against the best deal you can get and decide which is better: a bad deal or no deal.
Regarding the six nation negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program, the BATNA of Bibi Netanyahu, Israel’s once and future Prime Minister, seems to be World War III. Rather than sign on to President Obama’s deal, the Prime Minister came before Congress to argue for no deal and more sanctions, knowing full well that if the deal falls through Russia and China will make new sanctions difficult if not impossible to impose and maintain.
I suspect that what motivates Mr. Netanyahu is an apocalyptic messianism that hopes to push the US to do what Israel alone cannot do: mount a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Such an attack will set back the Iranian nuclear program for a few years, far less than the ten years found in the negotiated agreement President Obama is seeking. But Bibi doesn’t seem to care.
Worse still, a post–attack Iran will race for a bomb and claim the moral high ground in doing so. This in turn will start a domino effect among Arab Muslim nations as Sunnis scramble to get a bomb to protect themselves from nuclear armed Shia. Israel will feel all the more threatened, and messianic Jews, Sunnis, and Shia will feel all the more justified in their end–times fantasies, and all the more ready to indulge them. (See USA network’s Dig for one endtimes scenario)
I’m not saying that the Obama deal is the best outcome from the talks with Iran, only that if our BATNA is global destruction, then, contra Bibi, a bad deal is better than no deal at all.