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 Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid