Print options

November 18, 2013

Iran Talks Cause Rifts Among US Leaders

by Meredith Buel

Talks between world powers and Iran are scheduled to resume this week over the country’s controversial nuclear program.  As details of a preliminary agreement begin to emerge, political leaders in the United States sharply disagree on the best way to move forward. 

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, U.S. television viewers have watched massive crowds in Iran shouting “death to America.”

Recently tens of thousands of Iranians turned out to mark  the 34th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.  That historical legacy still haunts many Americans.

Now that negotiations between Iran and world powers have resumed, some U.S. political leaders are expressing concern about potential outcomes.

“The question being asked in America, 'Is no deal better than a bad deal?'  And that is why you see people on the Hill [Congress] and others saying slow down, don’t be fooled,” said Adam Ereli, a former U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain.

Negotiators are currently working on an interim agreement that would put limits on Iran’s nuclear program.

In return there would be some easing of severe economic sanctions currently crippling Iran’s economy.

Republicans in Congress accuse the Obama administration of agreeing to allow the Iranians to continue to enrich uranium, an idea they say is fatally flawed.

“Iranians have continuously cheated time after time, overruling both our Arab allies and Israel in their views of the disastrous consequences of this agreement," said Republican Senator John McCain. "It is a bad agreement.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has spent a great deal of time in the Middle East trying to reassure Israeli leaders. And Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region are also expressing concern.

“We do not want to go to war with Iran," said analyst Ereli. "And the nuclear program could lead to war.  Let us be clear; everybody in the region is terrified of Iran getting a nuclear weapon.”

And if a deal is struck, Secretary Kerry will have to sell it.

“We are convinced that this will put us in a much stronger position, because it actually rolls back a danger to the Middle East, to Israel, to our friends in the region, and to ourselves,” he said.

Americans have already seen some thaw in relations.

For the first time in more than 30 years the two presidents spoke with each other on the phone.

But President Barack Obama says the bottom line remains the same.

“So our policy is Iran cannot have nuclear weapons," he said. "And I am leaving all options on the table to make sure that we meet that goal.”

The United States and other countries accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, while Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes.