Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is clearly alarmed at the way that Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani has made inroads in the west and the thaw that seems to be occurring between Iran and the US. The goal of Israel has been to have the US go to war with Iran and so you could expect him to use his annual speech to the UN to whip up alarm about the extreme danger posed by Iran’s nuclear program and urge that everything be done to completely dismantle it. But it would be hard to top the comedic effect produced by last year’s speech with the ridiculous cartoon of a bomb that spawned numerous parodies inspired by the similarities to the Road Runner and Bugs Bunny.
So to no one’s surprise, Netanyahu made a belligerent and alarmist speech, issuing dark warnings with clichéd animal metaphors about why Iran was not to be trusted, and provided a laundry list of demands to the west on how it should treat Iran.
With no hint of irony, he also said that Iran could not be trusted because it has defied UN resolutions on nuclear enrichment. But Israel leads all other nations in the number of UN resolutions it is in defiance of and, as political scientist Stephen Zunes points out, the US blocks enforcement of any resolutions that target the nuclear programs of Israel and its other allies.
Another issue the president raised is the proliferation of nuclear weapons, in particular, Iran’s nuclear programme. President Obama has successfully pushed the UNSC to impose tough sanctions against Iran for violating a series of UNSC resolutions by failing to halt its uranium enrichment program.
But the US has blocked enforcement of other UNSC resolutions targeting the nuclear programmes of US allies which – unlike Iran – actually have nuclear weapons.
UNSC resolution 487 calls on Israel to place its nuclear facilities under the trusteeship of the IAEA. UNSC resolution 1137 calls on India and Pakistan to eliminate their nuclear arsenals and long-range missiles. But the Obama administration has not only refused to support implementing these resolutions, it provides all three countries with nuclear-capable jet fighters and other military assistance.
Similarly, the Obama administration has repeatedly blocked the convening of a long-planned international conference on the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone for the Middle East, as called for in UNSC resolution 687 and the most recent conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
But the tide is slowly turning against Netanyahu. A huge majority of Americans consistently favor direct talks with Iran. Netanyahu seems increasingly out of step with the rest of the world and his alarmist rhetoric at the UN this year seemed to be less an effort to get the US to take the last step of going to war with Iran and more a sign of desperation that war was slipping away.
After years of worrying about Iran’s disputed nuclear ambitions, Netanyahu took to the stage at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday and made his most explicit threat yet to attack the Islamic republic unless it ends its atomic program.
However, his warning carried less weight than in previous years, with only a dwindling band of diplomats and experts convinced that Israel might unleash its warplanes, especially at a time of warming ties between Iran and the rest of the world.
One Western diplomat involved in Iranian nuclear diplomacy described Netanyahu as “out of step” with the mood of detente and a former senior U.S. official cautioned that Israel would be unlikely to secure all its demands in any negotiations.
Netanyahu’s problem was made worse by the fact that attention in the US is focused on domestic politics of the government shutdown and the debt ceiling and so he did not get as much media attention as he would have liked.
But even in the midst of a domestic crisis, president Obama and vice-president Joe Biden seemed to find it necessary to meet with Netanyahu for 2.5 hours, no doubt to soothe his feelings.