Review of Washington–Tel Aviv Differences on Managing Schedule of Nuclear Talks with Iran

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mohammad Farhad Koleini
Former Iranian Ambassador to Armenia & Expert on Strategic Issues

A glance at the recent remarks of the US President Barack Obama’s former senior advisor, Dennis Ross, proves that Washington and Tel Aviv have strategic differences with regard to the schedule of nuclear talks with Iran. Ross, who has served as senior advisor to President Obama and his predecessors, Bill Clinton and George Bush, took part in an inclusive interview with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on the United States’ policies in the Middle East. He noted that sanctions against Iran cannot achieve a decisive result on their own and will not be able to make Iran give up its nuclear program. He advised the US statesmen to overpower Iran by using a combination of dialogue and pressures.

He emphasized that pressure on Iran should be increased to the degree that Tehran will have to give in to the US demands. Also a few days after Moscow talks between Iran and the P5+1 group – including the United States, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany – Ross took part in an interview with the Jerusalem Post daily noting that the six world powers negotiating with Iran should consider the possibility of applying a tougher strategy after the failure of nuclear negotiations with Iran in Moscow. He argued that the main problem with the current step by step process was allowing Iran to kill a lot of time while continuing with its nuclear energy program. On the other hand, in his interview with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, he noted that the United States shared Israel’s concerns about Iran. He added that Washington and Tel Aviv pursue a common goal which is to prevent emergence of a nuclear Iran, not to live in its neighborhood. Elsewhere in his remarks, Ross revealed the existence of a sixth side in nuclear talks with Iran noting that considering crippling sanctions against Iran was Israel’s demand. In fact, he said, the United States carries out Israel’s proposals on Iran. The former senior advisor to a number of US presidents also stated that the main difference between the United States and Israel in this regard was that Israel keeps complaining about shortage of time to act on Iran, while the United States officials think otherwise.

When comparing different views of Washington and Tel Aviv about temporal management of nuclear talks with Iran, three important developments and, in fact, priorities should be taken into consideration.

In addition to interaction with Iran over its nuclear energy program, Washington is currently also concerned about the forthcoming US presidential elections in November, as well as management of political developments in Egypt and Syria. Tel Aviv, however, has only focused on aggrandizing the issue of possible development of nuclear weapons by Iran. Therefore, it puts more emphasis on the element of time in its Iran diplomacy in order to influence the US positions.

The United States, which is carefully observing the ongoing developments in global financial markets and the existing trend in international energy prices, continues to put the highest emphasis on forging international consensus on Iran's nuclear issue. The US policy is following two forms of consensus in this regard: consensus in the UN Security Council and consensus on continuation of tough sanctions in parallel to negotiations. Therefore, Washington is by no means willing to speed up developments which may shatter the fragile consensus that it has brought about on Iran's nuclear energy program. If that consensus fails, the US government will have to put its hands in the air in the face of hard military policies proposed by hardline republican figures and the Zionist lobbies.

Dennis Ross has noted that there is no military solution to Iran's nuclear issue. He argues that possible nuclear assault may delay implementation of Iran's nuclear program by a few years, but it will not totally dismantle it. Iranians, he says, have already mastered technical and engineering know-how and can rebuild what is destroyed. Therefore, Ross firmly believes that intensification of sanctions will prove to be the most efficient option in the course of time.

It is noteworthy that in a recent visit to Israel, the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger addressed the audience in al-Quds (Jerusalem), and while emphasizing on the important role of diplomacy in resolving Iran's nuclear issue, also pointed out that the moment of truth in Iran's nuclear standoff will be reached in a few months. He, however, cautioned that a decision on Iran should not be taken a one-sided decision. During the visit, Kissinger was given Israel’s Presidential Award of Distinction by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Kissinger’s remarks about important developments which he claimed will happen in the next few months echoed previous positions taken by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the importance of next month’s developments in Iran's nuclear case.

By doing so, Tel Aviv is trying to keep heated debates on Iran's nuclear issue alive. This will allow Israel to continue swaying influence on the US foreign policy and marginalize the importance of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process whose promotion was one of the election promises of the incumbent US President Barak Obama. As a result, regardless of who enters the White House following the forthcoming presidential polls, the next US president will not be in a position to have new expectations of Israel.

Key Words: Washington–Tel Aviv Differences, Nuclear Talks with Iran, Dennis Ross, Sanctions, US Presidential Elections, Military Policies, Koleini

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