The chances of the US and Iran signing a renewed nuclear deal resemble the betting on who will win the Super Bowl. Bengals? Rams? Maybe a deal, maybe not. Who knows? But a Haaretz story based on unnamed (naturally, this is Israel of course) official sources says that an agreement is imminent. If true, this would echo statements from both Iranian and American officials speaking favorably about the chances:
That more vocal US rebuke of the agreement,…is a sign that a deal is imminent, analysts say – and that Biden is pushing ahead to secure it despite potential political costs.
“This is a clear signal, as we also know from other reporting, that a deal is in sight. The negotiators are close to the end goal,” said Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian-American journalist and analyst. “And that’s why the opposition is growing louder – because they see it as something imminent and want to stop it, as they tried to do in 2015.”
Regardless of these positive noises, we have heard all this before only to be disappointed when things don’t come to pass. So it’s difficult to know how to credit such stories. In addition, Israel has sent its own envoy to Vienna to weigh in on Israeli concerns, as the negotiation comes to a possible conclusion. Many believe that Israel is doing more than observing, but rather doing its best to either throw a wrench in the works; or at least urge skepticism toward Iran’s position.
But it’s useful to game out the possibilities if there is a deal. Before doing that, remember that Israel has been touting the Abraham Accords as a magic elixir to solve all of Israel’s problems with the Arab world. Prime Minister Bennett just made a surprise visit to Bahrain which, by the way, treats its Shia majority as badly as Israel treats Palestinians. So they have much in common on that score. By all accounts, it was love and roses:
Bennett also met several government ministers and discussed the need for greater economic cooperation. “We want to fill this relationship with substance in energy, in drive, in economy, in tourism and in the regional architecture,” he said.
“We must do more to get to know one another and build upon the Abraham Accords, which have been such a historic agreement,” the crown prince said, referring to the US-brokered deal…
In recent months, as tensions with Iran have soared, the two new allies have intensified military cooperation.
Early this month, they signed a defence pact, and last week, Bahrain announced that an Israeli naval officer would be stationed in Manama, which is also home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet. The Israeli military confirmed it will have a naval representative attached to the 5th Fleet.
The new Israel-Arab alliance is based on a single major (and questionable) premise: that Iran is the Great Satan and all its enemies will join in a common pact to defeat or defang it. Even if no nuclear agreement results from the Vienna talks, the presumptions on which the Accords are based are as weak as a house of cards. Despite talk about common interests and expanding trade and tourism, there is little Israel shares with these countries other than a mutual hatred of Iran.
So what happens if the deal is signed and all parties carry out its provisions? Something that didn’t happen after Obama signed the 2015 agreement, when the US didn’t lift the sanctions that were anticipated by Iran. Aside from removing sanctions and the resulting resumption of trade and normalization of relations, the stance of the Gulf States will change. Already, UAE and Saudi Arabia have begun direct talks with Iran intended to find common ground among them. A renewed JCPOA will vastly encourage such reconciliation among former enemies. It will not remove all enmity–a great deal of that still remains. But it would substantially change the political and security environment.
The Abraham Accords will, if not fall to the wayside, at least diminish in importance. The security alliance between Israel and these Sunni states will lose much of its allure. Israel will essentially be left out in the cold. It remains to be seen whether the Arab participants in the Accords will resume their support for the Palestinian cause. But they will certainly cool down their romance with Israel.
Israel has made numerous errors in its policy considerations around Iran. Chief among them was to assume an intransigent posture toward Iran and JCPOA. Instead of working on improving the deal and negotiating to get better terms, Bibi Netanyahu offered a version of Khrushchev’s shoe-banging, Big Nyet in his notorious UN speech: No! Nyet! Never! That was Bibi’s mantra. It served him well as long as Trump was president. It was also applauded by most Israelis.
But now that Biden is president and Netanyahu has been driven from office, Israel faces an entirely new political environment. That may be why the officials who spoke to Haaretz seemed to be hedging their bets so that Israel might find something to like after all in the agreement:
Israel has not rejected the possibility that it would support an interim agreement if it consists of clauses that dramatically restrict Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons for a long time.
Though one must add that the likelihood that the new deal would do that is slim. What’s likely is that it will bring all parties back to status quo ante, with perhaps a few tweaks to satisfy the Israelis and the Iranians that things will be different and better this time.
As Bennett considers his approach to an impending deal he has to weigh two major factors: can he fend off attacks on him and the deal by Netanyahu and his far-right allies, and support the deal (or at least not attack it vociferously)? And can he avoid supporting it, given the PM’s desire for improved relations with the US? There can be no doubt that Biden has little use for Israel. He has a good enough memory to recall the slights and insults Bibi slung at Obama. Nor can Israel’s aggression against Palestinians endear it to the US president. Israel is dead meat as far as Biden is concerned.
Since Bennett has made improving relations with the US part of his political agenda, it’s possible he will either endorse the deal or take a neutral stance. If so, Israel might call upon the Israel Lobby to tone down its vehement opposition, which has encouraged its water carriers to oppose a deal. Israeli silence would diminish the hawkish voices in Congress. As an example, take major recipients of Lobby campaign cash like Sen. Robert Menendez, who spent an hour speaking in the Senate decrying Iranian perfidy with an accompanying graphic of a bomb featuring the colors of Iran’s flag:
…Sen. Bob Menendez started an hour-long presentation on the Senate floor last week with a poster featuring a green, white and red bomb – the colours of the Iranian flag.
Over the next 60 minutes, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee argued tirelessly against reviving the Iran nuclear deal, warning that the curbs the pact would impose on what he called Tehran’s “dangerously and rapidly escalating nuclear programme” are not enough.
Besides returning to JCPOA, could the US also negotiate a truce with the Israeli government regarding the deal? It appears to depend at least in part on how scared Bennett is of Netanyahu, as he (the former) looks over his far-right shoulder.
Colin Wright says
Well, your perceptions of the situation don’t match mine, but somewhat unusually for myself, I sincerely hope you’re right and I’m wrong.
Nate Depp says
Love thy neighbor, Colin.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Nate: For me, snide asides to other commenters is useless. It satisfies your need for snark. But it’s simply static. Stay on task. OFfer ideas, argument and substance. Not your smug satisfied side talk to others.
Nate Depp says
Persians have warred with Egyptian pharaohs, Spartans, Alexander the Great, Muslim Arabs, etc.
How galling it must be for Iran to have to now deal with a postage stamp-sized desert country ran by Jews.
[comment deleted: your comment was Iranophobic and racist. Read the comment rules before commenting here again should you choose to do so. But I warn you your racist ideas are not welcome here and violate the rules.]
Richard Silverstein says
@ Nate: Youre’ talking about ancient history. And have left out that all major powers in this ancient era warred with each other. The Persians were no different than any other major power. So singling them out is racist. But then, we expect that of you because we know your MO.
As for your second paragraph, it’s snark. And it’s not witty, not funny and pisses me off, because it isn’t serious and doesn’t offer anything of substance. It shows your level of self-regard, which leaves me cold. So if you want to grease your way outa here, keep that up.
… a good enough memory to recall the slights and insults Bibi slung at Obama.
VP Joe Biden was responsible for all foreign policy under Obama … in the footsteps of VP Cheney. Many insults were directed at Joe himself as he came to visit Jerusalem. As far as the Abraham Accords, Biden supports it and builds on it.
Most important the recent reception in the UAE of president Erdogan of Turkey … both in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The Emirates signed deals for $18bn investment in Turkey, as NATO partner still suffering from harsh US economic sanctions.
Turkey’s Erdogan feted in UAE as former adversaries seek to reset ties | TOI |
Qatar -MB alliance- was and is favorite of Biden and will partner for delivery LNG to Europe when the US cuts all energy ties Russia-EU. The giant Leviathan gas field. Strong cooperation Greece-Cyprus-Lebanon-Turkey with Israel is imminent. The US leads, Brussels follows.
The biblical Oil of Zion will be Israel’s savior.
Israel now partners with ME nations under US CENTCOM command and there is an effort to form a NATO-ME alliance.
US Navy has dispatched the USS Cole, a guided-missile destroyer with anti-ballistic missile capabilities, to the UAE. American F-22 Raptor pilots from the 1st Fighter Wing based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, landed at Al Dhafra Airbase outside Abu Dhabi.
Iran’s Nour News website, which is close to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), carried a report refuting the Reuters claim a deal had been drafted.
Iran Nuclear Deal Inches Toward Revival but Faces Critics in U.S. | NYT |
Republicans warned that any new agreement would “likely be torn up” by the next administration.
Strong resistance from right wing here and in Israel (supporting each other) Support of Israel means relying on being able to point to Iran as the enemy. This deflects from Israel’s own existential issues, including it’s own nuclear status. Israel may find itself the cheese that stands alone… against peace.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Oui: I would expect the Iranians to deny this. Partially because they’re responding to Israeli claims that a deal is in the offing. Partly because they don’t want to be bullied into agreeing to the deal until they’re ready to do so.
The “Daily Alert” from JCPA, when I look at it, the first issue is seemingly always Iran.This has been the Netanyahu inspired diversion from Israel’s internal problems. Iran supports the Palestinians and they complain about Israel’s exceptionalism vis a vis nuclear capability. As long as we don’t face the latter, that will hold us from a nuclear free Middle East. Iran will want parity, MAD. The retort is that Israel is responsible, Iran not. Really?
The Abraham Accords was not a peace deal it seems-rather a business deal that Trump/Kushner needed as well touted as a win for peace. But if Israel was willing to join a nuclear free Middle East and willing solve the Palestinian issue (after more than half a century) we might start cooking up something nice resembling a real peace deal. It’s good news that Arabs and Iranians may see some light about a peace between themselves. Israel, at least it’s right wing, takes advantage of the Shia Sunni divide; Netanyahu certainly needed it.
אלי גל says
@Richard: putting aside for a moment your Pavlovian reaction to gloat at anything that seems to be hurting Israel – why would an agreement that curbs Iran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb “leave Israel out in the cold”?
Living there, I would be pleased to know that we would not be a target to Iran’s desire to wipe me, my family, my children’s families off the face of the earth (hold your Pavlovian horses Richard; this had been proclaimed by their religious leaders).
The fact that our ex-great-dear-leader, now enclosed at his Caesarea home suffering the wrath of an insane wife, or even the present prime minister who will probably disappear from the political map in a future election – are advocating against the agreement – does not represent many of Israeli citizens just as Trump does not represent many of Americans (perhaps even not you?)
Richard Silverstein says
This is a lie. I don’t permit anyone to characterize my views on Israel as you have. If you do anything like this again, you will be banned pronto. [see below for why I changed my mind and moderated Eli]
Pavlov worked with dogs. Whether you know it or not, you just compared me to a dog. And the idea that I salivate at the prospect of harming Israel is disgusting and insulting. Watch it bub. Snark like that doesn’t go over well here.
If such an agreement does NOT leave Israel out in the cold AND “curbs Iran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb,” then why aren’t Bennett, Gantz, etc. embracing it? Of course, they’re not embracing it because it will harm Israeli interests in the region and weaken Israel’s strategic position as a regional hegemon.
Another baseless lie devoid of fact or evidence. I don NOT permit commenters to offer lies in the guise of fact. Or opinion in the guise of truth. You’ve committed 2 violations of the comment rules in this comment. I am moderating you for going over the line. You may submit comments in future and if they respect these rules I will publish them. If they are anything like this comment, they won’t see the light of day.
I don’t know what “religious leaders” you’re speaking about. But the only ones who matter have never said anything of the sort. And the claim that they have, has been disproven both here in a blog post I wrote on this specific subject, and by Iranians and other experts.
Utter nonsense. All Israeli polls on this matter show that Israelis hate the nuclear deal and want nothing to do with it unless it is a much more draconian, restrictive one on the Iranians. And that will never happen because the Iranians would never agree to it. Again, you’re substituting your own wishful thinking for fact. It simply isn’t so.
אלי גל says
Surely you understand that I used the term “Pavlovian” metaphorically? Nothing to do with dogs salviating. On the other hand I do have a feeling that whenever there is something that seems to hurt Israel (whether realistically or in your mind), you gloat at it.
I am sorry if I made you feel that I have equated you to a salviating dog. That was not the intention. Metaphor, ok?
Richard Silverstein says
@ Eli: No, not OK. Pavlov certainly does have to do with dogs salivating since he did the experiment with dogs who salivated. So you did liken me to a dog. Whether it was metaphorical or literal doesn’t much matter to me. I found it offensive and that’s what matters to me, regardless of how it appears to you.
I don’t “gloat” over anything including Israeli ineptitude or criminality. I criticize. I analyze. I write from an independent perspective. This is no love fest and I owe no obligation to fawn or celebrate Israel when so much about it is bad or wrong. I would do the same about any country including the US, Russia, etc. I give Israel no special favors. Doing so, does Israel no favors.
If you want that sort of narischkeit you will have to find it elsewhere, which I’m sure you do. If you come here, you will get my perspective. If you don’t like it, go elsewhere.
Victor Eskenazi says
re: The Iran deal …
According to what The Times of Israel is reporting, from their sources, “Iran is also seeking a guarantee that the US will not be able to withdraw unilaterally from the agreement again, which would require an act of Congress.”
Sure, Congress will vote for it just after Israel initiates a 2-state solution …
re: “Iran’s desire to wipe me, my family, my children’s families off the face of the earth”
I don’t know if there is any truth to it, but I’ve heard/read it often enough, including today – “the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose leadership seeks Israel’s elimination.”
Richard Silverstein says
@ Victor: Stop treating Times of Israel as if it were the two tablets brought down by Moses from Sinai. First, there is no way Biden can commit to a deal that is not reversible. And Iran knows that. There is simply not enough support in the Senate for it to pass. Iran will, at the end, drop this demand. If it doesn’t, there’s no deal.
So because TOI wrote that Iran is “seeking Israel’s elimination,” that means what precisely? That the TOI reporter, Tobias Siegal is peddling the same bulls* peddled by the Israeli right and the Israel Lbooy for decades. Does it mean it’s correct? Or that there’s any evidence to support it? No and no.
Bamdad Bahar says
Richard, I admire your honesty and bravery. It is absolutely the case that politicians in Israel and the west have been using Iran as a wedge issue and a distraction. Also, there is a massive irony about the nuke deal, the West has been punishing Iran and Iranians for using equipment and technology that it sold to Iran in the first place. One final point, the polarization with Iran is counter to Jewish history and indeed the future of Israel itself. Iranians have always been and will be Israel’s best regional ally. No Iranian – none – not even people like Ahmadinejad would ever want Israel gone. What Israel’s best friends want are 2 things: 1. For Israel’s government to stop its criminality with peddling things like Epstein’s schemes or funding ISIS and other groups or mass killing of innocent civilians with bombing and nuke tests etc. and 2. For Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. And if you think about it, these are actually in Israel’s interests too. I applaud you and this site.
Richard Silverstein says