Theo Stone, Online Features Columnist, considers the US-Iran talks over a nuclear deal and the involvement of Israel.
Most people will probably agree that Israel-US relations are currently rather frosty. Whilst the United States tries to ensure that their talks with Iran lead to a nuclear deal, Israel is determined to see that Iran receives no form of renegotiation. During his visit to the United States’ capital, Washington D.C., Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that he does not want to see anything other than a hard line approach towards Iran. Republicans have met this demand with adoration. However, at the other end of the political spectrum, Obama and the Democrats are fuming.
The United States, alongside UN Security Council members France, Germany Russia, China, and the United Kingdom, are currently in the midst of negotiations with Iran on the restriction of their nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
The last meeting between US Secretary of State, John Kerry and the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, ended with a slew of statements from Zarif, who proclaimed that a freeze in sensitive nuclear activity was “excessive and illogical”. Nevertheless the US-Iran talks, which are currently being held in Montreux, Switzerland, will continue until 31st March. It is hoped that a final deal will be reached by 30th June.
However, it must be noted that progress has been made. The November 2013 agreement that led to a temporary freeze on Iranian nuclear developments represented the first formal agreement between the US and Iran in 34 years and has been hailed by the international community as a great step forward.
Despite this, many are still concerned that the talks either do not go far enough, or should never have been pursued in the first place. Many, including Netanyahu, believe that Iran will simply use nuclear technology to build weapons of mass destruction and thus they should be prevented from doing so. Iran is a country run by religious fundamentalists whose views on differing beliefs and values concern many. There is a fear that they will strike readily at the first sign of trouble.
Israel’s position within the Middle East, their short-but-bloody history, and their religious differences means that their relationship with Iran is far from cosy. Iran has often been found to back factions within many of the regions conflicts who are of a militant-fundamentalist disposition. If Iran was to develop a nuclear weapon, Israel would undoubtedly be one of its first targets.
Indeed, the same can be said for Saudi Arabia, who is equally concerned about the US-Iran talks. Saudi Arabia is a nation with a population whose primary religion is Sunni Islam. Conversely, Iran is under Shia-Islam, and as such the groups that Iran fund directly oppose Saudi Arabia’s. The ongoing siege by Israeli forces on the city of Tikri, which is currently under IS occupation, partially consists of Shia forces, which Saudi Arabia views as evidence that, to quote Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, “Iran is taking over the country”. If sanctions on Iran were to be lifted, then Saudi Arabia believes that Iran will simply use the newly created economic potential to send even more money to militant organisations.
So, should we trust Netanyahu? Well firstly, Israel will be going to the polls in just over a week to vote in their general election. In many ways, this was the perfect opportunity for Netanyahu to ensure re-election by appearing to stand up against the United States’ liberal policy (despite the fact that Israel relies on the US to allow for its continued survival).
Netanyahu has modelled himself on Churchill, and as such wants to be seen as his successor. The bust of the former British Prime Minister that Republican politician John Boehner is scheduled to present to him is further affirmation of the idea that the American right and the supporters of Netanyahu want him to take on Islamism in the same way as Churchill took on Communism, but perhaps with even more aggression.
Furthermore, Netanyahu has a rather notorious history when it comes to Iran. Many of his previous statements against the nation have been either contradictory or factually inaccurate. He is often remembered for his speech that proclaimed that “this regime has been in power for 36, and its voracious appetite for aggression grows with each passing year”. Iran is by no means the same nation as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. 2013 saw the election of President Hassan Rouhani, a man whose platform was far more reformist and liberal than those of his opponents.
Many of those who were born after the revolution admire the US and have undertaken many secretive campaigns on the internet to resist the strict laws that the regime curtails. They see the United States as a place of liberal self-expression, and they desperately want this. If the 2009 protests demonstrated anything, it was that large swathes of the Iranian public simply want to be free.
In addition to this, the counterpoint, which would be to seek greater sanctions, is essentially impossible. Nations such as Russia and China are unlikely to support them, and with US-Russian relations at a point no dissimilar to that of the Cold War, it is essential that the United States doesn’t continue to stick its heel in. Harder lines would lead to a fracture in the multinational coalition, and would ultimately further destabilize US policy in the Middle East. Furthermore, they simply wouldn’t work. Iran has already poured around $100 billion into their nuclear program. They’re most likely more than willing to pour even more in.
Of course, the deal is far from perfect. Many would argue that Iran is still being given too much nuclear freedom, and too many sanctions are being lifted for too little gain. However, if we truly want to see greater stability in the Middle East, talking with Iran might be part of the answer.
Theo Stone, Online Features Columnistbookmark me