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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs