Netanyahu’s ‘historic’ mistake on Iran

The Iran deal was historic. But was it a historic success or a historic mistake?

Chris Doyle

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The Iran deal was historic. But was it a historic success or a historic mistake? Take your pick. Every international statesman, every government press release had to use the “H word.”

Maybe. Many states described the 2003 deal with Libya on chemical weapons as historic too but were at war with Qaddafi less than a decade later. History is not going to judge this deal whilst the ink is still dry on the paper. History may be truly made over the year to two years following the deal, not just now.

Getting the message across

It was obvious that the Iran deal was done and dusted the moment it was indicated on July 7 that Iran wanted to conquer the world. It did not just crave a nuclear weapons arsenal but global control all under the benevolent overlordship of the supreme leader.

The bitter reality for the Israeli leader is that as hard as he had tried to prevent this outcome, he had had less influence than any major Western leader

Chris Doyle

This was not a quote from one of the supreme leader’s speeches but the supposedly seasoned analysis of none other than the Israeli prime minister, only a few months after winning his fourth Israeli election. Netanyahu stated this in public at a memorial service, and then to make sure the entire world got the message, he tweeted it from the prime minister’s official Twitter account stating: “Iran’s increasing aggression is more dangerous than that of ISIS, and the true goal of this aggression in the end is to take over the world.” For good measure, he then had it translated into Farsi and posted on his freshly created Farsi Twitter account.

It is a golden rule in politics that the level of exaggeration and hyperbole used is inversely proportional to the level of success and influence. If you are losing, hype the threat or the issue. Netanyahu was unwittingly admitting complete failure and acknowledging zero influence over the deal. He could not thwart the deal. Netanyahu’s two decades worth of alarmist warnings on Iran nuclear bomb had come to nothing. He was not enjoying his isolation, his standing ovations in Congress seemed a long way away.

Bitter reality

The bitter reality for the Israeli leader is that as hard as he had tried to prevent this outcome, he had had less influence than any major Western leader. Netanyahu was barely able to apply the brakes. He was ignored, for a politician it is the worst scenario imaginable.

But, pause for one second. Imagine an Iranian leader, in fact any leader, accusing Israel or the Jews of wanting to take over the World. Do you have to imagine? The torrents of outrage. Western leaders would be falling over themselves to get their condemnations in, with ever more excited language in a super competitive bid to outdo each other. Well so far, I can find none. Not one. The stench of hypocrisy will be smelt from Beijing to Washington.

So when the Israeli prime minister alleges bizarrely that Iran is trying to do so, surely there is some level of outrage, somewhere. Did you hear President Obama expressing concern, or Prime Minister Cameron leaping to challenge his friend “Bibi.” Well not yet at least. Is there even a faint glimmer of a possibility that Netanyahu might apologize or at least delete the tweet? Probably about as much chance as he will apologize for the Gaza War last summer.

This is the season for grotesquely ridiculous hyperbole and that is without including comments from Republican Presidential candidates. Cameron himself had only proclaimed on the BBC that ISIS represents an existential threat to the West. ISIS is a threat and a serious one but not even close to being an existential one to the West. (Note that Cameron focused on the West and not the very real existential threat to Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon).

There is a very serious point buried in all of this. Pyromaniacs are in overdrive in the Middle East, and even infecting politicians and opinion formers further afield. Hate is a booming currency. With little concern for resolving conflicts or claiming tensions, far too many in positions of responsibility are quite happy to add fuel to the flames even as they are burning their doorsteps.

What did Netanyahu hope to achieve by claiming Iran wants to take over the world? He is not even about to go to the polls so he does not have that old excuse.

Negative role

For sure, Iran’s role in the Middle East has been negative, no more so than in Syria. Its backing of the Assad regime’s crimes and brutal interference is horrific but no more than Russia’s. The post-sanctions financial bonanza for Iran could yet augment the weapons arsenals of Bashar al-Assad with fatal consequences for thousands of Syrian civilians. It could chose a different path and should be encouraged to do so.

Rather than expending huge energies in crude sound bite diplomacy, it is time regional leaders started trying to make this Iran deal work, not fail. Israeli might wish to learn from the lessons of why it has become so isolated. Saudi Arabia, a more diplomatic critic of the Vienna deal, may wish to examine the positive options before taking any drastic measures.
Iran itself should refrain from investing the billions of dollars of sanctions relief into further conflict, not least in Syria. What better way to highlight a change of approach to the world than to push for a credible political deal over this century’s most devastating conflict.

This requires a major regional transformation, a colossal diplomatic effort and courage leading to deals not just on Iran but Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Libya. Ignore any one of these conflicts and the Iran deal may mean nothing.


Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and international media. He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

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