It looks like the P5+1 nations (US, Russia, China, France, UK, and Germany) have arrived at a framework for a deal with Iran on partially reducing the sanctions regime against that nation in return for concessions on its nuclear program, and both sides are claiming satisfaction with the deal. Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks explains what the preliminary deal struck between Iran and the western powers involves, and says that Iran had made some extraordinary concessions.
Meanwhile the Iranian government also seems to view the deal with satisfaction, though they have disagreed with some US interpretations of it.
Iran’s lead negotiator, who was welcomed back to Tehran by cheering crowds on Friday, insisted that Iran had negotiated from a position of strength to secure a good preliminary deal.
He pointed to the changes in the demands of the P5+1 group of countries – the US, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China – as evidence of the success of negotiations that began two years ago.
“They realised they can’t shut down Iran’s nuclear programme.”
Zarif said Iran would keep its promises so long as the west also did so, and suggested a deal could open the door to more productive relations with the international community, echoing comments on Friday by President Hassan Rouhani.
“We don’t want anything more than our rights,” he said. “We’ve never pursued a bomb in the past or now. We’re also not looking for regional hegemony. We want good relations with our neighbours in the region.“
Naturally, the ones who are displeased are the warmongers who want nothing less than to create a failed state in Iran like what has been done to Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and the continued destabilizing of Syria, and they have rushed to condemn the deal. Their main argument is that Iran cannot be trusted to live up to its words, acting as if the US has an impeccable record of being trustworthy in its dealings with other nations. Karoli has a round up of their predictable reactions, as does Philip Weiss, who points out that despite their criticisms, Obama seems to have won the debate among key constituents.
This deal poses a problem for those Democrats who usually follow along with the Israel lobby who will be torn between doing what AIPAC and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu want them to do while not wanting to completely abandon their own party’s president. The Republican party, that seems to see itself as an extension of the Likud party and takes its cues from Netanyahu, has no such internal conflict and predictably has vowed to oppose the deal.
It is quite extraordinary to observe how much Netanyahu has injected himself into partisan American politics. Apart from speaking to a joint session of Congress and attacking the US government’s negotiations with Iran, it was revealed that Israel has been spying on the negotiations and then passing that information to the Republicans in order to give them ammunition to torpedo the deal. And now Netanyahu reveals that he has gone even further, openly boasting about working with Congress to undermine the deal, and saying “I’ve talked to about two-thirds of the House of Representatives, and probably about an equal number of senators.” It is hard to imagine the leader of any other nation interfering in domestic politics this way and not getting roundly condemned from all sides.
But his open interference in US politics and public campaign against president Obama has created a backlash because even usually uncritical supporters of Israel think he is going too far in attacking a sitting US president in the midst of delicate negotiations, and has fostered the impression that he hates president Obama on a personal level, a sense of contempt that is clearly also shared by some Republicans.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina condemned the deal by definition because it was negotiated by Obama, who Graham said was not sufficiently “feared or respected” by Iran to be an effective negotiator.
“He’ll never be able to get the best deal,” Graham told CBS. “The best deal, I think, would come with a new president. Hillary Clinton would do better. I think everybody on our side except maybe Rand Paul could do better.”
But the effect of Netanyahu’s massive involvement with internal US partisan politics seems to be too much even for usually reliable Democratic allies of the Israel lobby and has also caused caused a split within its donor base. While the lobby could once count on bipartisan support, now that support has deepened within the Republican party while some Democrats are clearly upset with Netanyahu’s partisan strategy.
Netanyahu was also sharply rebuked by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the long-time head of the intelligence committee who followed the Israeli leader on CNN and warned that he was intervening at the wrong time.
“I don’t think it’s helpful for Israel to come out and oppose this one opportunity to change a major dynamic, which is downhill, a downhill dynamic in this part of the world,” Feinstein said.
“To be candid with you, this can backfire on him,” Feinstein warned, going on to criticize an appearance by Netanyahu before the US Congress early last month. “I wish that he would contain himself. Because he has put out no real alternative in his speech to Congress, no real alternative. Since then, no real alternative.”
Former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, a Republican who served in a Democratic administration, writes that the deal, because it is not a unilateral US one but done jointly with all the major military and economic powers, puts opponents in a bind because they have nothing to offer in its place other than the prospect of a war with Iran, something that sane minds recoil from.
In terms of optics, if the final deal is anywhere close to satisfactory on these matters, and our European allies sign off, it will be very tough for Congressional Republicans to kill it. If Congress — as opposed to Iranian intransigence — is seen as causing the deal to collapse, international sanctions on Iran will crumble. Most Europeans, who are champing at the bit to do business with Iran, will blame Congress for killing the agreement — and will lift their sanctions. The only sanctions left will be our own. If that happens, then Iran will have accomplished its objective — the collapse of the international sanctions regime — without having to make any nuclear concessions. They can continue to build as many centrifuges as they like, continue enriching uranium at high levels, and reap the financial rewards — all while laying the blame at America’s feet.
President Obama has put both Congressional Republicans and our Middle Eastern allies in something of a box. Neither Congress, Israel, nor our Gulf allies can afford to be seen as killing the deal.
Recall that once Libya abandoned its nuclear program, the US and its allies felt more comfortable bombing it and creating chaos there, while a nuclear-armed North Korea remains untouched. This is why Iran is suspicious of demands that it completely disarm and leave itself vulnerable to a similar attack.