The king of empty gestures doesn’t get it. Neither President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden nor Secretary of State John Kerry would like to see his face in Washington.
Still, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists he wants to go to Congress in March to encourage senators to pass new Iran sanctions! Hopeless is one story, otherwise is another. The ground may be shifting under Netanyahu’s feet, ironically because he himself has been digging at it:
1. Despite the intense wrangling between the White House and Congress, Senator Robert Menendez says he will not support passage of an anti-Iran bill in the Republican-held Congress, which he himself has cosponsored. The chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says Democrats would not back the bipartisan legislation as Tehran is engaged in nuclear talks with the P5+1 countries. According to Menendez, they “remain hopeful” for a diplomatic solution to the issue.
2. Concerned about the Iranian Parliament’s threat to ratify a legislation that obliges the government to enrich uranium to the level of 60% for industrial use in case Congress imposes additional sanctions, Obama has been quick to announce he would veto the legislation if it reached his desk. He has warned the move would bring about failure in the US diplomacy.
3. Far less enamored of the Israeli lobby than they used to be, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Beijing have equally voiced opposition to tossing a flash-bang grenade into the prevailing diplomacy, saying sanctions would be counter-productive. Even British lawmakers say new sanctions will not be able to coax Tehran into suspending its enrichment and that future sanctions or covert operations to sabotage the nuclear program will similarly remain unsuccessful.
It is an unprecedented snub to Israel and its lobby in Washington, provoked by Netanyahu’s desperate effort to thwart a key US policy in the Middle East: Achievement of a nuclear deal with Tehran. Not surprisingly, Iran’s extensive cooperation and rational diplomacy has paid off, as it determined the direction of negotiations with the P5+1 where its members decided to allow more time for diplomacy.
Despite the sanctions regime, Tehran, having faith in its legitimate right, has at the same time continued its close, steady, transparent and extensive cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It has allowed round-the-clock inspections of its nuclear facilities by the UN nuclear watchdog inspectors, which are exclusively dedicated to peaceful use.
Clearly anxious and deeply divided on core issues, Washington and associates are in no way comfortable with getting blamed for torpedoing the delicate negotiations. They are pretty much aware that their failure will challenge the IAEA, pushing their fairness, truthfulness and diplomacy to the limit.
The main point in all this is that Washington and associates are pretty much aware that their anti-Iran rhetoric is superficial. Their decisions to press reluctant governments to curtail support for exports to Iran, block transactions, and freeze assets are superficial. Without question, their UN-sponsored sanctions are likewise irrevocably colored by politics, short of scientific, technical, legal and justified virtues, and hence superficial.
Since an interim deal was agreed in Geneva in November 2013, Washington and associates have missed two deadlines to ink a final agreement with Tehran – under pressure from the Israeli lobby, Congress and the petro-dollar racket in the Persian Gulf.
The ball is now in their court to leave a little light on for more international diplomacy. It is up to them to reach a high-level political agreement by March 1 and to confirm the full technical details of the accord by July 1. It’s a critical test of their intentions.