News / Middle East

Progress in Iran Nuclear Talks Makes Some US Allies Nervous

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a statement to the media after meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry November 8, 2013. Israel rejected out of hand a mooted deal between world powers and Iran.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a statement to the media after meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry November 8, 2013. Israel rejected out of hand a mooted deal between world powers and Iran.
x
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a statement to the media after meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry November 8, 2013. Israel rejected out of hand a mooted deal between world powers and Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a statement to the media after meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry November 8, 2013. Israel rejected out of hand a mooted deal between world powers and Iran.
Talks between six world powers and Iran resume next week in Geneva but the real drama may be occurring elsewhere as the United States tries to reassure Congress and nervous allies that an emerging deal is better than no agreement.
 
President Barack Obama, already under attack domestically for the bumpy rollout of his signature health care initiative, is trying to convince hawkish members of Congress to hold off on new sanctions against Iran while the Geneva talks hold a chance for success.
 
At a press conference Thursday, Obama noted that sanctions already in place had helped bring the Iranians back to the table with a more realistic attitude. The U.S., he said, was offering only “modest relief at the margins of the sanctions that we’ve set up” in return for Iran freezing and rolling back some elements of its nuclear program for six months. “If it turns out six months from now that they’re not serious, we can crank -- we can dial those sanctions right back up,” Obama said. 
 
The drama is now in the Senate, where Democratic leaders are trying to block quick action on new sanctions legislation. In the past, sanctions advocates have attached such measures to a must-pass bill authorizing annual defense spending. As of this writing, it appears that the defense bill will not come up for a vote before Thanksgiving, allowing next week’s talks to go forward without that added complication.
 
If new sanctions pass now, that could make it more difficult for Iran to accept a deal that requires concessions regarding their nuclear program. However, Obama’s soothing words appear to have had little or no impact on the government of Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the reported offer to Iran as a “historic mistake” because it would leave intact much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure – albeit with greater monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify Iranian pledges not to enrich uranium to weapons grade and major restrictions on a heavy water reactor that could produce plutonium, another potential bomb fuel.
 
A new report by the IAEA on Thursday showed that Iran has significantly slowed the advancement of its nuclear activities, adding only four new centrifuges to its facilities in the past three months and remaining below an Israeli “red line” of 240 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium – sufficient, if further purified, to make a nuclear weapon. Iran also did little to advance the controversial heavy water reactor under construction at Arak. However, what many saw as a positive signal from Iran, Netanyahu dismissed. He said he was not “impressed” since “Iran does not need to expand its program because it already possesses the necessary infrastructure for building a nuclear weapon." 
 
Others nervous about a potential breakthrough in Geneva include Saudi Arabia, which is already angry at President Obama for failing to go through with threats to bomb Syria after that country’s government killed more than 1,000 Syrian civilians with chemical weapons. Other Arab states on the Persian Gulf such as the United Arab Emirates fear that now that U.S. diplomats are talking directly to Iranian officials in an almost routine manner, the United States will shift the pattern of alliances forged with Sunni Muslim countries in the aftermath of Shi’ite Iran’s Islamic 1979 revolution.
 
Both the Arabs and the Israelis chafe at the fact that they are not in the room in Geneva negotiating alongside the United States, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1). Even within this grouping – a legacy of the days when the U.S. and Iran did not meet alone -- cracks have appeared that reflect irritation with U.S. policies. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius infuriated Secretary of State John Kerry last weekend when he emerged from the talks at one point to declare that what was on offer was a “sucker’s deal” and suggested that France would take on the burden of toughening the terms.
 
That kerfuffle – which may have had something to do with Obama leaving France out on a limb over military action in Syria a few months ago -- appears to have been smoothed over and U.S. officials now insist that the P5+1 are all on the same page. But underlying the tensions is the fact that if an agreement is reached, it could have a profound effect on U.S.-Iran relations and lessen U.S. reliance on some of its old allies.
 
There is no doubt that Obama’s policy toward the Middle East has exhibited “a lot of doubt and hesitancy,” according to Ross Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey who is now at the Atlantic Council. The Obama administration has seemed “to lurch from one set of problems to another” and has had difficulty articulating “a coherent vision” for the region, Wilson said Friday to the national conference of World Affairs Councils of America in Washington.
 
But the “policy choices are extremely difficult,” Wilson noted, and the Middle East keeps changing in ways that even the world’s lone superpower cannot possibly control.
 
With much of the Middle East in turmoil, the status quo simply will not hold. Some shift in U.S. policies is inevitable as it withdraws from two costly wars and finds itself in the unexpected position of the world’s largest oil producer. A nuclear agreement with Iran would reduce the chances that the United States will go to war again and could bring other benefits for regional conflicts in Syria and between Israel and the Palestinians. But it also brings uncertainties that will be hard for all the parties – in the room in Geneva and outside – to adjust to in the short term.

Barbara Slavin

Barbara Slavin is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and a correspondent for Al-Monitor.com, a website specializing in the Middle East. She is the author of a 2007 book, Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation, and is a regular commentator on U.S. foreign policy and Iran on NPR, PBS, C-SPAN and the Voice of America.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Change Iran Now from: USA
November 17, 2013 2:31 PM
The deal, according to the details released so far, will substantially weaken the U.S.’s sanctions against Iran, possibly securing the president a reputation for diplomatic goodwill and engagement, while dismantling no centrifuges, destroying no enriched uranium, and securing no guarantee that the country will end or slow most of its nuclear programs. In order for our president to be considering such a deal, he must consider the former to be of vastly more personal and national utility than the latter.

by: Sunny Enwerem from: Nigeria
November 16, 2013 10:25 PM
Let a military strike option be on any final agreement to be taken when ever UN inspector are prevented from carrying out their duty or Iran at any time found to poses anything related to weapons grade nuclear activity.

by: BENSON NKUITO from: KENYA
November 16, 2013 11:51 AM
For sure US need to stand as a supper power, and not trying to make new friends and putting the world peace at risk.Obama need to act as other US presidents to assure peace exist in this world.

by: Tony Bellchambers from: London
November 16, 2013 8:50 AM
It has taken exactly 150 years for the United States to jettison Lincoln's Gettysburg address of 1863, and the Declaration of Independence, when he concluded with the line: "Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Under this current, lobby-hijacked administration, we have Government of the people, by the people, for a group of Israeli lobbies including AIPAC.

President Abraham Lincoln will be turning in his grave at the complete humiliation of this Obama presidency as it is ignored by those House Representatives that have decided to represent a foreign lobby in preference to their own constituents in Alabama, Ohio, Chicago, Detroit, NJ, CA, FL and throughout the United States of America.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More