Political Animal

Blog

September 29, 2013 4:07 PM Could Congress jeopardize the Iran detente?

By Samuel Knight

An article published in the Guaridan today indicates that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could, in fact, face a backlash at home, when he throws a tantrum in response to the detente between Iran and the United States at the United Nations:

In the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, prominent columnist Nahum Barnea wrote that, in his phone conversation with Rouhani, Obama had “folded the flag which Netanyahu had waved to Israelis and the world, the basis of his diplomatic existence”.

[…]

Yossi Alpher, an Israeli strategic analyst, said that Netanyahu’s “strident tone”, which included ordering the Israeli UN delegation to walk out of Rouhani’s speech, meant that “he’s coming across as a kind of spoiler”.
“I don’t think he will be able to persuasively argue that Rouhani is not worth talking to,” Alpher said. “We lose a degree of credibility when we allow ourselves to be totally out of synch with our allies on this issue.”

And this comes after Netanyahu’s own Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, said that “Leaving the UN general assembly and boycotting is irrelevant in current diplomacy, and is reminiscent of the way Arab countries have acted towards Israel.”

The most prominent ally’s position, however, might be somewhat obfuscated by entrenched hawkish attitudes in the legislature. On Friday, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bob Menendez penned a Washington Post op-ed, before Obama’s historic conversation with Rouhani, essentially stating that policy toward Iran shouldn’t change:

As Rouhani returns home, diplomacy remains our hope and goal. But our resolve to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability remains unchanged.
We believe that four strategic elements are necessary to achieve a resolution of this issue: an explicit and continuing message that the United States will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, a sincere demonstration of openness to negotiations by Iran, the maintenance and toughening of sanctions and a convincing threat of the use of force.

But Netanyahu, overseer of a secret nuclear program - the only nuclear armed head of state in the Middle East - will tell the White House on Monday, according to AFP, that “Iran’s nuclear programme must be dismantled and not merely supervised” - a absurdly high threshold, in line with the Senators’ position that the U.S. should not allow Iran nuclear weapons “capability.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, in an interview broadcast on ABC today, that “Iran has no interest in creating nuclear weapons but should be able to continue to enrich uranium for ‘peaceful’ purposes.”

If the American people’s reluctance to intervene in Syria is any indication, they might be inclined to agree with Zarif.

It will be interesting to see how Senators and Representatives react to the late Friday chat between Obama and Rouhani this week — particularly with the budget at the forefront of the agenda.

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.

Comments

(You may use HTML tags for style)

comments powered by Disqus