The Israeli elections have tended to sideline almost everything else but by now, we have all read endless commentary on a deal between Tehran and Washington and the likely consequences of its implementation. If Lausanne succeeds, Obama has pulled off a foreign policy coup of staggering magnitude and his grand bargain will supposedly usher in a new, more compliant era, bringing Iran in from the cold and increase US leverage in the region after a disastrous decade of débâcle and misstep in US foreign policy.
There is a sense of desperation to succeed at all costs, which many analysts are detecting. They seem to be in broad agreement that Obama’s almost obsessive drive to secure a resolution is likely to pave Iran’s way to being able to manufacture and deploy nuclear weapons after about ten years, as well as fire the starting gun for a galloping nuclear arms race amongst other countries in the Middle East. Given Iran’s tendency to concealment and subterfuge, ten years may be an over-estimate and there is a persistent conspiracy theory that the Iranians have enrichment sites unvisited by and unknown to Western observers. It is becoming increasingly clear, if only by process of reductio ad absurdum that Tehran has no transparent intention of keeping to any agreement reached, saying whatever tickles American ears on the one hand and sidestepping as many sanctions as it can on the other; in effect, doing what it likes.
President Obama’s opposition to Mr Netanyahu’s Congress speech was not just about defiance of protocol and bruised ego, instead a somewhat desperate red flag was waved warning how far political advantage outweighs any concern for the danger in which Iranian nuclear capability will place not only Israel but much of the free world. Over the years, Iran’s threats to destroy Israel, “to wipe it” from the page of history, or to flatten Tel Aviv and Haifa have been direct and unambiguous. How can the US and others hope to expect that diplomatic progress is achievable with an apocalyptic, ‘end of days’ religious hegemony as partner, seemingly heedless of any shred of self-preservation?
Whatever one’s personal feelings about the competence of Mr Netanyahu, it is undeniable that in terms of security, to borrow a cricketing metaphor, he is a ‘safe pair of hands’ and whatever the outcome in Lausanne next week, he has done his best to trash a bad deal, reminding us that “he who sups with the Devil must needs a ful longe spoone.”
Postscript. After delay and yet more delay, the pens have not yet been put to paper ten days after this original article was published. House Speaker John Boehner remarked (attrib. TOI today, April 2) “What bothers me is it looks like the administration is so hungry for a deal just to have a deal so they can say they have a deal. The rest of the world wants something real out of this.” Well done indeed, Mr Boehner, most of us got this far a while back. Something real? Yes, they do. Including the little country most at risk and with the most to lose. And, that reality had better include something more substantive than a few handshakes.