In a column in National Review, Ilan Berman argues that the Obama administration is the perennial sucker when it comes to diplomacy with Iran:
Just when it looks like Iran is making a genuine overture, they yank the football away at the last minute — those silly, naive Americans!
Here's the problem with Berman's Peanuts analogy: in the cartoon, Lucy and Charlie Brown were the only players in the game; in real life, there is a third. The Iranian people may be spectators, but they are what we can call active spectators, able to change the flow of the game if given the proper impetus. Yes, Iran is giving with one hand and taking away with the other — Rouhani and the more moderate types in the regime seem to favor a genuine detente with the United States, while the Revolutionary Guards and their supporters loathe the idea — but this doesn't betray a duplicity in Iranian diplomacy as it does genuine uncertainty. Put simply, there seems to be no consensus as to what the Islamic Republic's next move should be and when it should be taken. Amidst all this disorder coming from Tehran, the Iranian public sits on the sidelines, witnesses to this lack of diplomatic unity and political cohesion. And we would be the naive ones to assume that they aren't absorbing what they see.
It's not that the football doesn't matter, it's just that the goalpost matters more.