Maayan Jaffe

Don’t forget about Iran

With the current war against Hamas, the most recent round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 member states barely made headlines. Understandably so in Israel, where civilians continue to live under constant rocket attack and young soldiers are being killed in battles with the Hamas terrorist organization.

But White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest wrote in a statement last Friday evening that under the Joint Action Plan, “as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has met its commitments under that initial accord.” The member states agreed to a four-month extension to the talks toward a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Tehran.

No words can hide the chaos and confusion in the Middle East (and extending to Eurasia). While the P5+1 continues to lighten sanctions in hopes of an Iranian agreement, it is leaving Middle Eastern countries – including America’s own allies – in harm’s way.

Reportedly, Israel, Saudi Arabia and ostensibly Azerbaijan are considering addressing Iran crossing the nuclear arms finish line — together. This should be a wake-up call for the U.S.

Israel’s relations with Azerbaijan have grown in the last decade and according to most reports, the country of 9 million, located between Russian and Iran, is willing to bear pressure from Iran to maintain its independence and expand already close ties with Israel. Located on Iran’s northern border, Azerbaijan, a fellow Shia nation, although moderate, progressive and secular, has significant cause for pause.

In contrast, the U.S. in all its arrogance is straining ties with its closest partners. While the U.S. sees itself as preventing nuclear proliferation in the region, the Saudis and the Israelis see themselves engaged in a death struggle. The strong fight Hamas’s armed wing,  the Izz El-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, is putting up against Israel will likely pump fresh blood into relations with Iran, whose support does not appear to have waned as much as some thought, given that Hamas’ arsenal of improvised rockets and other weaponry clearly improved.

President Obama has been accused of not consulting with its allies on Iran, nor considering America’s allies’ safety. While Ernest emphasized the administration worked closely with Congress and its key regional allies, including holding several senior-level closed-door talks with select members of Congress to brief them on the status of talks ahead of negotiations, there is little evidence these partners are not being pushed aside as the Obama administration plummets forward, “providing time and space,” as Ernest put it, to reach an accommodation with Iran.

With the most recent round of sanctions relief on Iran, Obama has betrayed Israel and Saudi Arabia, America’s two most important allies in protecting the world’s oil supply. Some say more than an attack on Israel, Iran’s endgame is to seize the Saudis’ oil fields. Saudis could use oil prices to punish America for Obama’s betrayal. America’s national security stakes couldn’t be higher.

Though Azerbaijan has shown restraint, America is likewise straining bridges with this most-moderate country. Azerbaijan respects separation of mosque and state, and despite pressure from its neighbors, remains independent from political domination. The country has taken a clear stand against terrorism and even supported the West in its counter-terrorist programs. Safeguarding Azerbaijan’s interests should be among the States’ strategic priorities.

U.S. influence in the region is diminishing; each “gap” in the slow and difficult negotiation process is furthering the gap between the U.S. and its allies. The Saudis no longer see the U.S. as an ally in stabilizing the Mideast, but as a force of chaos. Israel has spoken out against American tactics.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have good reason not to trust the U.S. to negotiate an acceptable deal. The Saudis have collected a long grievance of things Obama has done to destabilize their neighborhood –forcing Mubarak out of Egypt in exchange for the Muslim Brotherhood, pushing out Saleh in Yemen to create an al Qaeda stronghold on it southern border, and inviting violent radicals to Bahrain.

Rapprochement with Iran through Rouhani is a fool’s errand. Rouhani’s goal is to lift sanctions while preserving its right to go on enriching uranium and supporting terrorism, not to help Obama bring peace to the Middle East. Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei know they have Obama right where they want him. July negotiations proved nothing different … and now Iran has four more months to build its bomb.

Khamenei is Iran’s real boss and he was wise to back Rouhani, whose charm gave the Obama administration the excuse to sit at the table and step away from its promise to brazenly confront Iran on the nuclear issue. The closer you look, the less moderate Rouhani sounds; Rouhani is merely a front man for a government run largely by others who still embody the ideology espoused by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It is unlikely that Ernest’s hope of an Iranian nuclear program that ” will be exclusively peaceful,” can come to fruition.

Iran’s actions and rhetoric suggest it thinks Obama can easily be disregarded. Rouhani knows full well the U.S. will do nothing beyond theatrical military maneuvers at most. Therefore, the country has nothing to lose – and only what to gain.

Iran is getting everything – and mostly time — while giving almost nothing.

There is only one measure of success of a comprehensive agreement with Iran: Assurance that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon. If that’s the case, nuclear talks have almost a zero chance of success.

The Iranian team believes it is fighting God’s war. To win, the U.S. should have openly prepared for battle. Instead, it’s left Israel, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and a fearful cohort of others to fend for themselves on the battle field while aimlessly chasing a false victory.

While Israel fights the terrorists in Gaza, the world cannot forget about Iran.


About the Author
Maayan Hoffman is director of international communications for a leading Israeli think tank and an American-Israeli journalist since 1995. She raises her large, blended family a bus ride from the Western Wall.
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