Commentary

Opposition to U.S.-Iran Nuclear Talks Grows

Middle East In Focus

Middle East Policy Council

President Barack Obama has made the successful conclusions of Iranian nuclear negotiations one of the centerpieces of his foreign policy. Judging from the reaction of most observers in the region, few share President Obama’s determination to reach an agreement at all costs. In fact, many of them have accused him of giving up too much for too little. Even within Iran, there are those who are militating against a deal, even though the Iranian government is doing its best to sideline them. Meanwhile in Israel, there are significant misgivings about what a nuclear deal with Iran would mean for the region and for Israel’s security.

Regional dailies have expressed serious concern about what many consider the inept handling of the negotiations by the US administration, with the Daily Star’s editorial leading the charge against the appeasement of the Iranian regime: “Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is reflecting what must be a sense of quasi-celebration in Tehran, where the regime might be engaged in making tiny concessions on its nuclear program while reaping huge benefits elsewhere. This can be seen by the coma-like policy of principal partner in the talks, the United States, when it comes to areas that concern Iran....Iran appears to be getting everything it wants from the United States, anxious to conclude a deal on the nuclear program....Thus, the White House is sailing full-steam ahead on a policy of appeasing the Islamic Republic, with the violent and destructive repercussions for the Arab world surface over the following years and decades – conveniently after Obama and his team are no longer public officials.”

The Jerusalem Post’s Izzy Lemberg wonders whether the Obama administration is bound to repeat former US President Jimmy Carter’s failure by accommodating the Islamic Republic: “Is this really the state that the US wants to make a deal with? According to reports, the US is shifting its policy toward Syria in a way that will allow Syrian President Bashar Assad to remain in power, effectively giving Iran (with the aid of Hezbollah) a free hand in Lebanon and Syria where in 2014 alone 76,000 Syrians were killed because of the Iranian-backed Assad regime....Now Obama is willing to negotiate with Iran on issues that in the past were non-negotiable, like allowing Iran to enrich uranium, even though Iran has an intercontinental missile program that would endanger the United States. Thirty-six years ago then-president Jimmy Carter, another Nobel Peace Prize winner, stood by and allowed the shah to fall in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The world is still suffering from the aftershocks.”

Others, like Asharq Alawsat’s Amir Taheri accuse Obama of formulating his policy toward Iran based on fantasy rather than reality, suggesting that “since the election of Barack Obama as president that the “appease the mullahs” industry has gone into top gear. One reason for this is Obama’s fascination with the Khomeinist regime. “Obama understands our revolution,” says Sadeq Zibakalam, a Tehran university teacher with ties to President Hassan Rouhani’s administration. “We would be unwise not to respond to his show of goodwill.”...Obama has also set aside five UN Security Council resolutions on Iran’s nuclear project to seek a give-and-take deal with Tehran on dubious terms. In the process he has dropped the key demand in all those resolutions that the Islamic Republic stop its uranium enrichment program....The Western approach to the Khomeinist regime has been based on at least two illusions. The first is that one is dealing with a normal nation-state pursuing the normal interests of any classic nation-state based on the Westphalian model....The second illusion is that Westerners seeking a deal with Iran have often believed that a “Grand Bargain” could be pulled off with a one-shot effort.”

In Iran, critics are being urged to accept the government’s policy. The Iran Daily website accuses critics of the government that in doing so, “They actually favor partisan interests to national interests and seek to exploit national interests for their parties. They are worried about losing their political and economic privileges or giving their rivals the upper hand in the political spectrum following a nuclear agreement with the P5+1. The actions of the radicals run against national interests. They should back the nuclear negotiating team now as the people and political factions unanimously defended Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy....Along these lines, critics should respect the government's negotiations procedure and avoid criticisms that undermine such efforts or are simply made to vent anger at the government or to take revenge from it. Since the Leader has supported the negotiating team and approved talks with world powers on the nuclear issue, all political factions should follow suit.”

In an op-ed for the Gulf News, Shahir ShahidSaless lays bare the infighting that is taking place within Iran, with the Revolutionary Guard continuing to play an important role: “In another effort by the hardliners to obstruct a compromise with the US, in last week’s Friday prayer in Tehran, Ahmad Jannati, the influential cleric who chairs Iran’s Guardian Council, said: ‘The solution to our economic problems is a ‘resistance economy’, not relationship with America. I don’t know why they think that America should provide their food and water.’...In a glaring move underscoring Ayatollah Khamenei’s pessimism towards the talks and his opposition to Zarif’s walk, the website of Iran’s leader posted a Zarif-Kerry picture walking in downtown Geneva titled ‘Imaginary Points’. It was referencing Khamenei’s statement that ‘I am not against [nuclear] negotiations. They can negotiate as long as they want, but I believe that we should rely on real points of hope, not hollow and imaginary ones.’”

Israeli politicians and journalists have long debated the wisdom of a deal over the Iranian nuclear program. With PM Benyamin Netanyahu’s scheduled visit to US fast approaching, some, like Yedioth Ahronoth’s Alex Fishman have questioned whether that is the best way to get Israel’s voice heard: “Netanyahu knows that the chance that an agreement will be signed between Iran and the world powers on March 26 and that a detailed agreement for dismantling the Iranian nuclear enrichment ability will be submitted in June is very low....But Barack Obama is actually causing his own failure. He wants the goods so much that he has already put all the cards on the table, while the Iranians are still holding the cards close to their chest....the Obama administration has basically agreed that Iran will become a nuclear threshold state, only the supervision will be tighter in the first years....If Netanyahu really wants to influence the outcome of the nuclear talks, he shouldn't travel to Washington but to Paris and London, and deliver his address there.”      


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