When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complains about the “exceedingly bad deal” on the table in Geneva with Iran, U.S. officials, most notably Secretary of State John Kerry, have suggested that the Israeli leader has his facts wrong.
If that is indeed the case, one wonders why Washington is keeping its vital Mideast ally in the dark on such a life-or-death matter. After all, Israel is the prime target of a Tehran government that calls for the elimination of the Jewish state, though make no mistake, all of us would be endangered by a nuclear Iran.
Netanyahu has offended the Obama administration and the likes of the editorial board of The New York Times with his rhetoric of frustration. They see him as the primary stumbling block to an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 — the permanent members of the UN Security Council (the U.S., Russia, China, Great Britain and France, plus Germany). While the Israeli leader has been particularly outspoken, so has Kerry, who effectively warned Jerusalem to stay out of the Iran deal until after it has been completed.
But that would be too late. The U.S. should be thanking Netanyahu for trying to prevent a deal that would be dangerous to the West, one that would have Iran put its nuclear program on hold (and ready to activate in weeks), but not diminish its ability to enrich uranium or commit to closing its Arak plant, which produces plutonium for nuclear arms. In return, the Western countries would not only ease the crippling economic sanctions that brought Tehran to the table in the first place, but signal the international community that it can now do business again with Iran.
As the leading supporter of terror in the world, with surrogate armies including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, Iran cannot undo with a quick smile and signature what it has carefully built up since the 1979 revolution: a militant theocracy committed to Islamic revolution, with a multibillion-dollar effort to produce nuclear weapons, despite repeated denials.
Surely Israel would be the first to welcome a peaceful resolution to the Iran situation, and it has endorsed the current negotiations. But logic and history suggest that only maintaining sanctions while reducing Iran’s bomb-producing materials, under the eye of aggressive monitors, will be effective. Frankly, the U.S. needs more stick and less carrot in Geneva. It no longer raises the issue of Iran’s UN Security Council commitment to suspend all enrichment, and such a call for suspension is not part of the current Geneva proposal, either. Why not? When the French and Sunni-majority Arab states such as Saudi Arabia are closer to Israel’s position than Washington’s, for fear of a nuclear Iran and resultant Mideast arms race, it signals a lack of faith in America’s willingness to act boldly.
There are those who see in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani the next Mikhail Gorbachev — a moderate successor to the old guard on the world stage, prepared to negotiate on reducing nuclear arms. But it should be noted that it was only after President Reagan increased rather than eased pressure on the Soviets regarding economic sanctions and human rights issues following a 1980s summit, that Gorbachev eased his stance.
President Obama must prove his mettle now or Iran will remain convinced it can play him, and us, for fools.