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U.S. risked Israeli ties in bid for security

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AFP-Yonhap News)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AFP-Yonhap News)
WASHINGTON (AFP) ― The Iran nuclear deal will raise U.S.-Israeli tensions, yet Washington risked Israel’s fury believing a global settlement will ensure security for both the U.S. and the Middle East, analysts said Sunday.

Just hours after the six powers guiding the talks with Iran announced a groundbreaking deal in Geneva, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily denounced it as a “historic mistake.”

But U.S. officials have long said privately that nothing short of a total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear energy program will satisfy the Israeli leader ― something they warn is totally unrealistic.

In a bid to soothe tensions, U.S. President Barack Obama Sunday phoned Netanyahu and urged the two nations “to begin consultations immediately regarding our efforts to negotiate a comprehensive solution” with Iran, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Secretary of State John Kerry however defended the accord reached with the so-called P5+1 group that will freeze Iran’s program for six months to negotiate a comprehensive deal, saying “you can’t always start where you want to wind up.”

“Israel will actually gain a larger breathing space in terms of the breakout capacity of Iran,” Kerry insisted on ABC television’s “This Week.”

“Do you want to sit there and argue that you have to dismantle your program before you stopped it, and while you’re arguing about this dismantling it, they progress?” he asked.

Senior policy analyst Alireza Nader with the RAND Corporation said only a negotiated settlement backed by international inspections could provide guarantees that Iran was not secretly trying to pursue an atomic weapon.

“Even if there’s a military conflict with Iran and either the U.S. or Israel attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, you can’t wipe out Iran’s knowledge base,” he told AFP.

“Iran has mastered the fuel cycle, so it could reconstitute any aspects of its nuclear program that have been damaged and destroyed.”

While in the short term U.S.-Israeli tensions will rise, Nader said: “I would argue that Israel really has no more closer ally than the United States, neither does Saudi Arabia for that matter.

“The security of the region is still dependant on the United States,” he added.

And he argued Israel would not seek to undermine an accord which the international community has signed off on with a strike on Iran in the coming six months.

That would only increase Israel’s isolation, as it comes under fire for a lack of Arab-Israeli peace deal, and be seen as “a highly provocative act by the rest of the world,” Nader said.

“What we are witnessing is a potential rapprochement between the United States and Iran that could basically redraw the geo-strategic map in the Middle East itself,” Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East politics with the London School of Economics, told MSNBC.

Even if the United States was not on the same page as Israel or Saudi Arabia over Iran, people should “remember the United States has broader national security interests that must take into account security and stability in the region and American national interests as well.”

Bringing Iran back into the wider international community after years of isolation following the 1979 Islamic revolution could see it play a positive role in other regional crises, he argued.

There’s no doubt though that the deal could complicate Kerry’s moves to try to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, although he has argued that it should be seen as separate from the Iran negotiations.

The U.S. top diplomat, who has invested heavily his own time and energy in sealing a long-elusive accord, will likely visit Israel again in the coming weeks to help shore up ties with Netanyahu.

“The next six months will be a test for U.S.-Israeli relations and U.S.-Arab relations,” said Yoel Guzansky, former Iran analyst at the Israeli prime minister’s office and Institute for National Security Studies research fellow.

“When you talk about alliances now in the Middle East, (Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) is a tacit alliance,” he told AFP.

“Those countries are even more concerned about Iran than Israel is.”
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