“We are not blind, and I don’t think we are stupid,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in response to fierce Israeli criticism after the first round of talks about Iran’s nuclear program earlier this month failed to reach a deal. Now the deal is done, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is even harsher in his condemnation of Kerry’s handiwork.

In a room in which journalists were outnumbered by security agents and paramilitary fighters, the tall Iranian commander stood and issued his judgment. “Our ideology will not be undermined by some negotiations,” Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the hard-line head of the paramilitary Basij force, told the selected group of reporters in a gathering days before Iran signed an interim nuclear agreement with the United States and other world powers.

November 30, 2013

The interim deal concluded on November 24th between six world powers and Iran is much better than its many critics allow. In return for six months of “limited, temporary…and reversible” relief from some international sanctions, Iran has said it will not just freeze its progress towards a possible nuclear bomb, but actually take a few steps back. This, too, is limited, temporary and reversible; nothing is being decommissioned, and six months is a short time.

In the aftermath of the interim deal between the Iranian regime and the P5 + 1, the dissonance between the smiles on the faces of Iranian and Western negotiators and the frowns of concern of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and senior Israeli cabinet ministers reflect the magnitude of Israel’s challenge over the next six months.

As Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt, noted in the wake of the interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program reached in Geneva on Saturday, the effort by Tehran’s negotiating team to explain and justify the country’s push for atomic energy behind closed doors was accompanied by a public diplomacy campaign conducted online.

President Barack Obama has decided to test whether Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s “charm offensive” is a legitimate effort to reach an agreement on a more constricted and transparent Iranian nuclear program. With this decision, he embarks on the most transformative and important diplomatic initiative of his presidency.