A necessary speech 15

This opinion column appears today , March 3, 2015, in The Times of London.

It points out that there is a necessity to oppose the deal that Obama is making with the monstrous Iranian regime.

The defiant decision of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to

plead direct to the United States Congress against rushing into a nuclear

deal with Iran represents a watershed in the dismal relations between

Jerusalem and the Obama administration. A foreign leader is being invited

by Republicans to denounce the president on American soil. It is a speech

that even before its delivery today has split Israel and the Jewish

community in America, and is being presented by the Obama team as crude

electioneering and provocative mischief-making on the part of Mr Netanyahu.

Yet it is a necessary speech. All the signs are that the US, flanked by

five other powers including Britain, is accelerating towards a deal with

Tehran that will allow it to retain significant capacity to enrich uranium.

The arrangement would in theory allow the West to spot and block one year

in advance any attempt to build a bomb. That presumes easy access to the

most sensitive nuclear sites and a quick and efficient verification system.

Israel does not trust Iran. It sees a regime that is so desperate to have

sanctions lifted it is willing to fabricate concessions. The negotiations

do not include Iran’s ballistic-missile programme, whose prime function can

only be the delivery of a bomb.

Mr Netanyahu therefore comes to Washington full of suspicion not only about

Iranian intentions but also those of the Obama administration. He fears the

nuclear treaty would be the first step towards projecting Tehran as a de

facto ally and a regional power-broker. A nation that is so often

challenged by Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias and the Iranian-supplied

weaponry of Hamas has a right to be concerned.

Mr Netanyahu has, however, talked himself into an awkward corner. The

calendar creates an unfortunate linkage between the Israeli election on

March 17 and the next deadline for a settlement with Iran on March 28. Fear

of Iran is thus being played out in the Israeli campaign against the fear

of losing its most powerful ally, the United States. Almost 200 retired

Israeli security officials have warned Mr Netanyahu that he risks not only

a rupture with Washington but also advertising Israel’s weakness.

President Obama has needlessly aggravated relations with the Israeli

government by making it public that he is angry with the prime minister.

More, he seems ready to veto the bipartisan Kirk-Menendez bill that would

impose further sanctions on Tehran if it failed to sign an accord. This

saps the negotiating power of the West.

The relationship between the United States and Israel is too important, too

fundamental to Middle Eastern peace, to be drawn into partisan feuding.

Relations between Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu have never been warm but the US

should recognise that Iran cannot be blindly trusted. Tehran is already a

leading sponsor of terrorism in the region; it is alarming to contemplate

how nuclear weapons would transform this status. There is still time to

build cheat-proof assurances into a future accord. This must be done to

reassure Israel and all of Iran’s rightly nervous neighbours.

Rigorous inspection, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency, must

become the norm. Any attempt to conceal should be punished. Washington

cannot deny itself the option of escalating sanctions. Iran, though ready

for its own reasons to sit down with the West, remains a hostile power

rather than a putative ally.

*Adam Levick*

Managing Editor, UK Media Watch.