How Netanyahu’s choice of words could worsen the Iranian situation
Netanyahu now risks his personal relationship with Obama, and might prevent Western powers from dealing with Iran at a critical point in the talks
There is a battle. But it is not over a territory or a war, it is over the rise of a rival. Now U.S. President Barack Obama is eager to do anything in his power to find a peaceful solution to put an end to Iran’s controversial nuclear issue and wrap it up without a threat of another confrontation in the Middle East. But surprisingly the U.S.’ closest ally and friend is throwing a stone in its path.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who was invited to the U.S. by Congress house speaker John Boehner - a republican - was asked to call off his trip, but has ignored the request and appears to have plans to cause trouble.
Netanyahu seized the opportunity and now risks his personal relationship with Obama, and might prevent Western powers from dealing with Iran at a critical point in the talks.
The Israeli prime minister arrived in the U.S. on Sunday, when talks between Iran and the U.S. in Switzerland were due to resume on Monday.
Netanyahu first appeared at AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) on Monday morning, and mainly with Israel as the target audience.
He spoke emotionally about his love for Israel and the Jews. His speech sounded more like a campaign for the upcoming election, which is less than two weeks away.
It seems like he probably left most of what he wants to say about Iran to until he speaks to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday.
Not knowing what he wants to say, this has been described as ‘distractive approaches’ with an aim of damaging the talks in the last few steps when the negotiators are said to be close to reaching the nuclear deal.
Not much or any details about the negotiations has been revealed to public. The negotiators have said keeping the discussion details secret is key to reaching a successful outcome in order to prevent toxic propaganda from the opponents to the talks and the media.
The negotiators have twice extended the talks and the final deadline - according to both sides - without any further possible extension is July 1, 2015.
But the parties set a framework in Vienna, last November, to assess the talks’ progress by agreeing a deadline of March 24 to reach a political framework.
If this political frameworks is not agreed by the deadline, both sides said there was no need for the continuation of the talks.
This approaching deadline is the one which alarms and angers the Israeli prime minister, especially since he has told he would not be informed about the details any after leaking some of the information to the media.
Two days ago - ahead of Netanyahu’s trip to the U.S. - Israeli newspaper Haartez reported the apparent Iranian proposal to close down a third of its centrifuges and relinquish most of its low-enriched uranium, which had led to progress in talks with the six world powers in Geneva last week.
Haartez cited Western diplomats as its source and claimed that some issues remained unresolved – adding that the chances of reaching an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program by March 30 were low.
If Israel knows more than this published report, the expectation is that Netanyahu revealed little more than selective information to show his intelligence and capabilities, and to ruin the talks.
What is frightening is that Netanyahu is not clear on if this is for real or if the acceptance of Iran as an ally in the region and empowerment of the country after the deal can't come easy to the prime minister.
Iran and Israel enjoyed its best relations during the time of the Shah back in the late 1970’s before the revolution.
Still there are traces of sympathy with Israel among the ordinary Iranians who are not supporters of the regime - these people are mainly the average citizens who blame the system for the troubles they have had since the revolution.
Poverty, bad economy, unemployment, drug issues, high cost of living, international isolation and so many other issues give Iranians good reason to blame the system.
Many of them believe their nation’s wealth has been given to, or spent on groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah who don’t care about Iran at all.
Netanyahu not only upset Americans by what he said at the AIPAC on Monday, but he also hurt millions of Iranians.
Today Iran has a government which has impressed many of its people with its performance, especially in handling the nuclear talks. It has also raised their hopes of ending 36-years of struggle and isolation - finally they can dream of having a normal life.
But the sympathy with Israel that I am talking about, and has been existing deep among many Iranians was yesterday challenged.
Netanyahu not only challenged Obama, he also challenged millions of Iranians who haven’t had anything against him or his country.
Today the most hated person in Iran is no one other than Netanyahu, simply because he wants to prevent Iranians from finally feeling like they are living normal lives.
If the talks break up, the opponents of Hassan Rouhani’s government - the hardliners - would take the upper hand, and Iran would be more radicalized and turn to extremism.
Susan Rice the U.S. National Security Advisor to Obama put the ace on the table and made it clear to Netanyahu when she addressed AIPAC late Monday.
“It is neither realistic nor achievable to demand that Iran not have any domestic enrichment program.” Rice said.
Netanyahu not only risks relations with the U.S., he now makes a millions of Iranians, who are not necessarily supporting the regime, take sides with the government and turn to social media asking him to shut up.
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard