Working mostly in secret over a period of many months, Barack Obama and John Kerry have succeeded in putting together a deal on Iran’s nuclear program acceptable to our European allies plus China and Russia, whose closest border is less than 200 miles from Iran.
The deal was accomplished with minimal hand-holding of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, and without giving him veto power over the final product.
Mon Dieu! What is this world coming to? An American President acting pursuant to American interests on a foreign policy matter in the Mideast. It’s been a while.
Bibi was not pleased. But, with a nuclear arsenal of his own and a hammerlock hold on the US Congress, he has options.
He could seek to blow up the deal in Congress, where Republicans are looking to embarrass the President on any and all issues, and many Democrats are aware that there is a price to be paid for getting crosswise with the Israel lobby.
He could strike Iran unilaterally, or he could calm down, stop grandstanding, and work with the President towards the best possible final deal.
First, came the bluster. Israel will act alone to strike Iran and “save the West” as one of Bibi’s dipsy water-carriers in the American press announced.
Americans have been fighting to “save the West” day by day, body by body, in Afghanistan since 9/11. We’ve been joined by our European allies France, Germany, and the UK, and many other countries.
Bibi could have had Israeli troops join in that effort at any time. He didn’t; so they didn’t.
Maybe next time.
Israel will not act unilaterally to strike Iran during the term of the interim deal or while productive negotiations are in progress.
Second, Bibi could work the Congress to blow up the deal by having it pass additional sanctions legislation to undercut President Obama’s negotiating posture and humiliate Iran.
In addition to sanctions relief, Iran is looking for a measure of respect and, ultimately, a normalization of relations with the US. Bibi is as interested in the US having normalized relations with a non-nuclear Iran as he is with making a fair peace deal with the Palestinians.
In other words, not at all.
There is, however, a problem for Bibi if he tries to blow up the deal in Congress. The problem is called “the American people.” They give Congress a 9% approval rating.
If Congress imposes sanctions designed to sabotage a sensible deal, the President would veto that legislation and take the fight to override that veto to the American people, where he would win overwhelmingly.
Third, the mainstream of the Israel lobby has been called many things … uninformed and stupid are not two of them. They know that having a hammerlock hold on Congress is not what it once was. Simply because Congress is not what it once was. They also know that President Obama is the only American President since Eisenhower to win election twice with 51% or more of the popular vote.
As Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton know, underestimating the resourcefulness and survival skills of Barack Obama has not been a winning bet.
Cooler heads in the Israeli support community will counsel Bibi to dispense with the bellicosity and Armageddon rhetoric, and take his case for the best possible deal to Obama and work with him clause by clause for an acceptable final agreement with Iran.
Within five years of the end of World War II, the US had constructive relations with all our former adversaries. Bibi would like the US to remain in a permanent state of enmity with Iran. He views that as serving his own personal interest. Maybe it does.
President Obama is smart enough and tough enough to not allow Bibi to put the US in that box.
We should get a reasonable deal that denies Iran a bomb, lifts sanctions and ultimately normalizes relations with that country.
That is in our interest. No other country or individual should stop us from pursuing what is in our interest.
I will post again on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 (or before, if the news flow dictates) and, for the time being, I will post on the first Wednesday of each month.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Name and town if you wish to opine. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.