For at least five years, my foreign policy nightmare has been the United States blundering into yet another pointless bloody catastrophe in the Middle East, this time in Iran. The recent interim agreement with Iran is the best news I’ve heard in years on that front. With a new elected regime in Tehran, taking a more moderate tack, and an administration committed to diplomatic channels, it seems possible that we just might calm things down for once. As Fred Kaplan details, the terms are as good as we are ever going to possibly get, and far from unreasonable. It’s well worth a try, especially given that a possible reconciliation with Iran is in the offing.

Which is why this is so upsetting:

A bipartisan juggernaut of senior senators is spending the remaining week of the Thanksgiving recess forging agreement on a new sanctions bill that the senators hope to pass before breaking again for Christmas.

The administration believes the legislation could scuttle the interim nuclear agreement reached with Iran on Nov. 23 and derail upcoming negotiations on a permanent deal — scheduled for completion in six months — to ensure that Iran will never be able to build a nuclear weapon…The administration contends that new sanctions not only would violate the terms of the interim agreement — which temporarily freezes Iran’s nuclear programs and modestly eases existing sanctions — but also could divide the United States from its international negotiating partners across the table from Iran and give the upper hand to Iranian hard-liners in upcoming talks.

It’s hard to know what to make of this. First of all, we’re already sanctioning the everliving bejesus out of Iran. Passing more sanctions in response to a preliminary, six-month deal where the Iranians agree to partially dismantle their nuclear program—which is to say, to give us some of what we want—leads me to conclude that these so-called hawks are not interested in a diplomatic deal. Instead, they seem interested only in punishing the regime and the Iranian people as severely as possible, and therefore any deal occupying the space of the possible (as opposed to neoconservative fantasyland, where Iran agrees to unilaterally give America everything it wants, while adopting English as their national language) will be attacked automatically.

I might be wrong about that. As I’ve heard some argue, they might be bluffing. But if they pass this turkey, we’ll find out which interpretation is right.

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Ryan Cooper

Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanlcooper. Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Nation.