Israel and Allies, Main Obstacle to Iran Nuclear Agreement

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

As the marathon negotiations in Geneva enter a third day at the highest level, the prospect for a timely breakthrough  in the decade-long nuclear standoff may be held hostage as a direct result of the negative input of Israeli pressure led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not minced any words in expressing his displeasure with what he has pre-judged as a "bad deal of the century," presumably because this would be a deal whereby Iran would "gain everything without giving up anything," to paraphrase his Tweeter message.

A sign of dissension among the "5 +1" nations, the French Foreign Minister, laurent Fabius, has echoed Israel's concerns upon arrival in Geneva, thus adding fresh fuel to the momentum against a breakthrough -- that would conceivably end the "unnecessary crisis" that has the potential for further escalation if the present talks fail to yield a positive result.

Of course, even short of a binding agreement, the three day negotiation will still be a major step forward in terms of confidence-building and improving the world powers' understanding and respect for Iran and Iran's points of view on the nuclear and other non-nuclear, e.g., regional, issues.  Still, the absence of a deal would be an unfortunate setback that should be traced to a multiplicity of factors, including the absence of requisite element of proportionality, unwillingness of US and its Western partners to meet Iran half way on the subject of sequencing the lifting of sanctions with any Iranian concession, etc.  Yet, in a "failed scenario" whereby the parties would return home empty-handed, which is a distinct possibility as of this writing, the most important factor impeding progress would be Israel's spoiler role.

A clue to the American dissatisfaction with Israel's negative role, Nicholas Burns, a former deputy secretary of state under both republican and democratic administrations, now a faculty at Harvard University, has criticized Netanyahu's rash condemnation of the Geneva process as a "tactical error" that does not even serve Israel's own interests.

Ironically, whereas some US diplomats and politicians have been willing to criticize Israel, some "Iran experts" such as Hooshang Amirahmadi, in an interview with Russia Today, have echoed Fabius's position of calling for taking Israel's concerns into consideration and he has refused to even characterize Israel's knee-jerk opposition as an "obstacle." Instead of criticizing Israel and its supporters in Washington and Paris, Amirahmadi has actually joined their bandwagon against a potential nuclear deal, in light of his organization's recent induction of some wealthy Jewish donors as members of board of American-Iranian Council, now acting as a sister organization for the Jewish lobby groups seeking to prevent a nuclear breakthrough in Geneva. From Iran's vantage point, however, there is absolutely no question that Netanyahu dreads the thought of US disregarding its wish list on Iran, and the obstacle to an agreement that Israel and its supporters are mounting vis-a-vis the on-going efforts led by the US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has warned Israel that its refusal to negotiate with the Palestinians is now risking a  new Intifiada.  

Hopefully, this Geneva round will culminate in a "win-win" result satisfying the interests and concerns of both sides, instead of breaking into another fruitless effort signifying the lack of adequate independent will power on the part of the Western negotiators.  Indeed, this historic meeting has all the marking of an unprecedented slap for Israel, which has been fuming over US's expressed willingness to reach a deal with Iran short of dismantling Iran's uranium enrichment program, but, indeed, who does not know that Netanyahu's real intention is to keep the fire of Iran's nuclear crisis going for the sake of deflecting attention from Israel-Palestinian problem?

Contrary to Amirhamadi's statement that the world community and "5 +1" should seriously take into consideration Israel's concerns, the real issue is Israel's hidden agenda and concerns that are conveniently covered by its "Iran proliferation" pretensions.  The fact that Netanyahu has shown zero interest in the proposed solutions that provide serious additional "objective guarantees" regarding Iran's peaceful nuclear program speaks volumes about his true, and masked, intentions. In case the talks succeed in yielding a mutually-satisfactory breakthrough, this should be hailed as a milestone in terms of lessening Israel's tight grip on US's Middle East policy, in other words, a healthy sign.

*Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) .  Afrasiabi is author of Iran's Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction (2007), Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) and Looking for Rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform: Selected Articles and Interviews on United Nations CreateSpace (November 12, 2011).

Key Words: Israel, Main Obstacle, ran, Nuclear Agreement, 5 +1 Nations, Win-Win Result,  Middle East Policy, Afrasiabi

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