Tangled web of the new nuclear deal talks
The first round of nuclear deal negotiations between the US and Iran, which ended on Friday, were described as positive. However, the recriminations in Washington are commencing, as charges are being levied against the Biden administration for giving Tehran political credibility, while others are defending it as a historic meeting. But each side in the debate lacks the accuracy of all the political facts about what is going on between the two nations. Each side will try to furnish a reliable tradition of foreign policy to rebut the claims of the other. No one can yet have the vindication that their position is right.
There have been severe Republican attacks on the wisdom of enabling Iran to be a nuclear power. Israel also sees a nuclear Iran as politically inconceivable. The whole political atmosphere is confusing. In addition, the Biden administration is sending conflicting signals on Iran, oscillating between readiness to sign a deal and hesitating to agree to Iran’s demands, especially on quickly lifting the sanctions imposed on it.
But it is obvious that President Joe Biden and his top national security advisers have adopted pragmatic viewpoints that recognize the reality of change: That Iran has developed a solid nuclear power infrastructure that no country or group of countries can do away with.
In addition, the Republicans have been drawn into a confusing line of thinking, since there is a dichotomy between their renunciation of the decision to talk to Iran over its nuclear efforts and their inability to thwart that new diplomatic orientation by the Biden administration. Rep. Steve Scalise warned that negotiating with Tehran could force the US to make concessions to the Iranians, such as offering them large amounts of money that the regime could use to finance terrorism. Furthermore, Sen. Tom Cotton pointed out how special interests in America, such as oil companies, are pushing for a deal with Iran in order to reinvest there.
Adding to the Republicans’ protests is their concern that all previous efforts to contain Iran will become meaningless. They will never reconcile with what the Biden administration is saying about its relations with Tehran. They will always doubt what Biden says on this subject. However, the Republicans in Congress are currently unable to pass any legislation that could stop the government from negotiating with Iran over a possible new nuclear deal.
Adding to the Republicans’ protests is their concern that all previous efforts to contain Iran will become meaningless.
More confusion is found in Israel’s position. Chief of the general staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, has indicated a new Israeli strategy that includes a contingency plan based on a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear power stations. This would rely less on prior consultation or coordination with the US. Nevertheless, top government officials in Israel have denied the feasibility of such a plan, emphasizing their ongoing collaboration with the US regarding Iran’s nuclear prospects.
All these policy postures by the different sides of the debate are mutually exclusive. Israel is seemingly worried because it fears the US administration is not going to be loyal to an old ally. It is vexed by Biden’s approach toward Tehran because he is abandoning the “maximum pressure” strategy that was followed by the previous administration.
If the negotiations offer working solutions, how could the US government then assure the Israelis, and its other allies, that it will stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon? How could Israel request help from Washington in stopping Iran threatening it if the US is the country that ultimately helped Tehran achieve nuclear capability? These are some of the questions being posed both in Washington and Tel Aviv.
Israel and the Republicans may be forced to protest that Biden is silent on many of their demands regarding his negotiations with Iran. It is clear there will be different interpretations of everything that goes on between Iran and the US. Even if a deal is signed, the Republicans and Israel will advocate its rejection. The sharp divisions on Iran will be maintained in the heart of America.
• Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher, and writer. She holds an MA in political sociology from the University of Lyon. Twitter: @bilarakib