Just don’t get carried away

If you’ve noticed an uptick in mutual badmouthing between Washington and Tehran since the nuclear deal was concluded, you’re not imagining things. I’ll let Slate’s Josh Keating explain:

Over the weekend Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern that Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had declared his country still “180 degrees” opposed to U.S. policies in the Middle East. “Even after this deal, our policy towards the arrogant U.S. will not change,” the supreme leader said on Saturday, at a ceremony marking the end of Ramadan.

It’s a little hard to believe that the secretary is really reaching for the smelling salts in response to the idea that Iran is still committed to pushing back U.S. influence, given that he is about to head to the Gulf for a trip that he himself says is part of an effort to push back Iranian influence in the region. And it’s not as if his boss is embracing Iran.

Keating thinks this is mostly for show, an effort to convince wavering politicians both here and in Iran that nothing big is going to change because of this deal, and you can support it without worrying that you’re putting your country in bed with the enemy. I agree with his assessment, and it’s probably a good idea on both sides, but there’s a catch. As each government is addressing its own domestic critics and undecideds, it’s going to need to be careful, especially in this critical early period when ratification is still an issue, not to provide a lot of ammunition for opponents of the deal in the other country. To the extent that Khamenei can signal to his own people that he’s not softening on America while not also giving Tom Cotton something juicy to flash in front of the American public and antsy Senate Democrats as evidence that they should reject the deal, that would be good. And vice versa; Kerry’s trip to the Gulf is a good idea, but he’s going to have to be careful not to give Mohammed Jafari and his ilk in Iran something that they can really seize upon to push back against the deal.

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