As the Iran-US talks proceed in Vienna, there are clear signs that both countries want to reenter the Iran deal. And there are indications that Israel, which opposes the deal more strenuously than any country in the world, has been sidelined and is not being consulted on the talks.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu used a speech at the Israeli Holocaust memorial to warn the world that a deal was “useless,” akin to making a deal with Nazis, and that Israel would take into its own hands its security against the “existential” threat that he claims Iran poses.
Jews were “helpless” and reduced to “dust” in Europe, Netanyahu said sternly, but they now have “extreme strength” in Israel and won’t hesitate to use it.
“Let there be no mistake, an agreement with Iran will not bind us in any way,” Netanyahu said, per the Ynet coverage, then he seemed to liken the deal to agreements Nazis made with other western powers. “The nuclear agreement with Iran that allowed it to advance its development of atomic bombs, is on the table again. But history has taught us that such agreements in such regimes are worth as much as garlic’s peel.”
Right on cue, yesterday, Israelis attacked an Iranian ship in the Red Sea without sinking it. Even the Israeli station i24 speculated today that the attack was a signal to the world that Israel will not be bound by any deal with Iran.
All signals in the news are that the Vienna talks are already productive. CNBC:
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a cabinet meeting in Tehran on Wednesday that initial talks with the U.S. and world powers in Vienna to rescue the deal were a “success” that opened a “new chapter” to save the agreement, according to a statement via his official website.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price was guardedly positive yesterday, describing the talks as “a healthy step forward”.
[I]t is a welcome step, it is a constructive step, it is a potentially useful step as we seek to determine what it is that the Iranians are prepared to do to return to compliance with the stringent limitations under the 2015 deal, and as a result, what we might need to do to return to compliance ourselves.
Price described the deal as having to do only with nuclear issues and while he said the U.S. was also concerned with Iran’s “malign” activities in the region, i.e., support of Hezbollah and Hamas, those actions appear to be another letter from the Iran deal as such.
Today Price described Iran’s regional conduct as part of “follow on agreements” and said that the U.S. might lift some of the hundreds of sanctions on Iran if the two countries return to compliance.
“We are prepared to lift sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA. [Iran deal]
The Biden administration is getting political support from moderate and progressive Dems to reenter the deal: a letter led by Senators Tim Kaine and Chris Murphy, now signed by nine other Democrats, according to Jewish Insider. On the other hand an AIPAC letter trying to stop the deal by demanding that any deal concerns Iran’s regional activities has only gotten 43 Senate signatures, a collapse for the Israel lobby that Biden has surely registered.
Biden’s approach in Vienna is remarkable because Secretary of State Tony Blinken said at his confirmation hearings that the U.S. was going to seek a “longer” and “stronger” deal with Iran, to include its activities in the region , and that the U.S. would consult Israel before getting back into the deal. The Israel lobby regarded this as Blinken’s promise that Biden would not proceed as President Obama had.
“It’s also vitally important that we engage on the takeoff and not the landing with our allies and with our partners in the region to include Israel and to include the Gulf countries,” Blinken said… at a Senate confirmation hearing.
Now neoconservatives are flipping out. Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the rightwing thinktank that was Trump’s braintrust and now is isolated from the White House, is warning that the U.S. will make many “concessions” on “terrorism” to re-ink the deal. Dubowitz called for regime change and worse on Sunday:
On this day, Easter & the end of Passover, we’re blessed to be alive to witness the warm ties that have developed between Christians & Jews. And, with the Abraham Accords, to see this extended to our Muslim brothers. The end of the Islamic Republic in Iran would complete this.
“Dangerously obsessed doesn’t begin to describe this,” Dylan Williams of J Street writes. “Remember it whenever Iran deal opponents claim they don’t seek war or regime change, just ‘a better deal.’”
Other signs of momentum toward a renewed deal include a piece at the NBC News site by Joe Cirincione of Quincy Institute that describes the initial talks as “encouraging.” Cirincione writes that an Israeli/Saudi coalition succeeded in installing a “maximum pressure” campaign in the Trump administration but pressure has been a miserable failure, and now the same group is pushing the idea of a “better deal” as a cover for war. But Biden knows his presidency will be a failure if he allows such a war to begin.
The key will be to move quickly. Although Biden has a large, ambitious domestic agenda, this is not an issue he can put on the shelf and pick up in September. There are too many in both capitals and the Middle East who want to kill the deal and too many conflicts that could erupt into full-scale war.
Cirincione also says smears of those favoring diplomacy are being coordinated by a “troll farm” in Albania run by the Iranian dissident group MEK, a campaign that Facebook has now shut down, per the AP.
The New York Times continues to be biased, in its coverage of that attack in the Red Sea. Its story did not address the possibility that Israel was sending a signal that the Iran deal will not bind its actions. It did say:
The Israeli campaign is part of Israel’s effort to curb Iran’s military influence in the Middle East and stymie Iranian efforts to circumvent American sanctions on its oil industry.
Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council slams the Times for piping Israeli propaganda:
This is STUNNING! The NYT doesn’t write that the ISRAELIS SAY their attacks on Iranian ships are part of “their effort to curb Iran’s military influence.” Rather, it writes it AS IF IT IS A FACT. As if it is regular and legitimate police work. Unreal…