There has been quite a to-do about Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the US and his speech today to the joint session of Congress. For the first time that I can remember, there was not universal approval in Congress and the establishment media about his blatant attempt to direct US foreign policy and undermine negotiations with Iran.
Of course there were the obligatory standing ovations that have become mandatory. Apparently members of AIPAC and other groups in the Israel lobby monitor these events to make sure that members of congress are behaving properly and displaying suitable levels of ostentatious support for Israel. But over 50 members of Congress boycotted the event and some who attended refused to stand for the ovations. The initial reactions to his warmongering speech have not been good.
What do Iranians think of this act of political theater and Netanyahu’s efforts to use his friends in Congress to scuttle the talks and incite the US to go to war with Iran? Juan Cole summarizes the coverage in the Iranian media, something that the establishment media rarely do, though knowing what others think should be part of creating a well-informed public.
Reformers and moderates remain hopeful that Obama will prevail against the far right wing Israeli Likud Party and what Iranians call “extremists” in the US Congress. (It should be a wake-up call for US congressmen when Iranians think they are the extremists).
The hard liners in Iran don’t care, since they do not believe that Obama is negotiating in good faith to begin with. They point out that the US sanctions on Iran are arbitrary and by fiat, and have no basis in international law, and that Iran is being made to bend over backwards to please Washington just to get back to a normal situation. That is, they don’t think Iran is really gaining anything here. Indeed, some want reparations for the damage the US has done the Iranian economy.
Iranian commentary on this issue seems on the whole somewhat hopeful, and shows awareness of the fissures in Washington and the discomfort of many Democrats with the ways in which Netanyahu is attempting to undermine their party’s and their leader’s policies toward Iran. Some think the episode will change US relations with Israel, while others question whether that is really possible. They see the GOP obstructionists in league with Netanyahu as “extremists.”
His quotes from various sectors of the Iranian media make for interesting reading.