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Iran talks success and failure—both risky: Eurasia

With word of a snag in the Iran nuclear talks, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer said Friday that the U.S. and five other world powers in the discussions are in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation.

Reaching a deal to constrain Iran's nuclear capabilities is problematic, as is the alternative of the talks' falling apart, he said. "Which of my eyes do you want to poke me in?"

Bremmer laid out the two troubling scenarios in a "Squawk Box" interview. "You get this deal done, and the Iranians will still have breakout nuclear capabilities of 12 months, maybe 15 [months]." Should Tehran decide to break the deal a few years down the line, the international community would be hard-pressed to restart sanctions, he argued.

But on the other hand, he posited that no agreement and a continuation of the status quo would also be tough. "How long do we think we can maintain these international sanctions on Iran? The only reason Europeans have been supporting it was to push ... on negotiations."

"The Russians will break almost immediately" with the sanction regime, he continued, "and the Chinese will follow as soon as oil prices go up."

The U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are meeting with Iran in Switzerland, in hopes of reaching a preliminary agreement by the end of the month.

Iran is pushing to front-load repeal of economic sanctions, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. But the U.S. and its European allies are demanding a phased-in approach over years.

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Another factor pressuring the talks is the role of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Bremmer said. "The problem is that Kerry really is seen to want this. He tried Israel-Palestine; he failed. He wanted to nose in on Cuba; he didn't get any credit. He thought he should be president, thinks he should get the Nobel Prize."

While Kerry has coordinated with the White House, Bremmer said, "the optics haven't been great, and Netanyahu clearly isn't helping us," referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who criticized the Iran talks in his address to Congress last month. Netanyahu and President Barack Obama did not meet at the time, highlighting the strained relationship between the two allies.

Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party's election headquarters after the first results of the Israeli general election on March 18, 2015
Salih Zeki Fazlioglu | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party's election headquarters after the first results of the Israeli general election on March 18, 2015

But Obama did call Thursday to congratulate Netanyahu on his tough election this week. The White House said in a statement the president stressed the close security cooperation of the U.S. with Israel, but also emphasized the U.S. commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel.

In an MSNBC interview on Thursday, Netanyahu appeared to walk back his earlier remarks rejecting a two-state solution, saying he could support a demilitarized Palestinian state if conditions in the region change.

Israel has the upper hand in all this because the "Palestinians don't have a functional way to attack the Israelis militarily," said Bremmer, whose Eurasia Group conducts research and advises clients on political risks around the world.

"If you live in Israel, it feels pretty damn secure," he said. "It feels better than some parts of Manhattan."

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—Wire services contributed to this report.