Today’s New York Times makes it pretty clear that the U.S. idea of negotiating with Iran (multilateral negotiations begin this week) is not negotiating but issuing demands. The demands, of course, are those dictated by Prime Minister Netanyahu through his intermediary Dennis Ross, who maintains the close ties with President Obama he had when he was making Iran policy for the administration. Since leaving the White House, Ross has returned to his original base of operations, the AIPAC-created Washington Institute For Near East Policy.
This is a description of the U.S. position as reported in the Times:
The Obama administration and its European allies plan to open new negotiations with Iran by demanding the immediate closing and ultimate dismantling of a recently completed nuclear facility deep under a mountain, according to American and European diplomats.
They are also calling for a halt in the production of uranium fuel that is considered just a few steps from bomb grade, and the shipment of existing stockpiles of that fuel out of the country, the diplomats said.
That negotiating position will be the opening move in what President Obama has called Iran’s “last chance” to resolve its nuclear confrontation with the United Nations and the West diplomatically. The hard-line approach would require the country’s military leadership to give up the Fordo enrichment plant outside the holy city of Qum, and with it a huge investment in the one facility that is most hardened against airstrikes.
Here is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s position as reported in the Jerusalem Post.
With talks between the world’s powers and Iran due to begin later this week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that the demands on Iran need to be clear: stop enriching uranium, remove already enriched uranium, and close the underground Fordow nuclear facility near Qom.
Naturally, the positions are identical.
As at the Camp David Israeli-Palestinian negotiations (directed by the self-same Dennis Ross), the U.S. position is just the Israeli position copied on to different pieces of paper. (Although at Camp David, the U.S. sometimes just handed the Palestinians U.S. position papers with Israeli handwriting all over them).
Do we really expect the Iranians to simply accept U.S. demands that come out of Netanyahu’s office? Especially when the demands consist of Iran giving up all its rights to nuclear development of any kind while ignoring Israel’s 200 nuclear weapons?
How dumb do we think the Iranians are?
Of course, the U.S. position (actually the Israeli position) may not really be our position at all.
Ha’aretz, citing the Washington Post, reports that Obama has conveyed to Tehran that the United States does not object to an Iranian civilian nuclear program, only to weapons development:
President Barack Obama has recently passed a message to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Washington Post reported on Friday, which signaled that the United States would agree to an Iranian civilian nuclear program if they proved they were not developing a nuclear bomb
According to David Ignatius, the Washington Post’s senior columnist specializing in intelligence matters, Obama passed Khamenei the message through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Tehran this week.
Obama reportedly signaled Khamenei that the U.S. would be prepared to accept a civilian nuclear program in Iran, should the Iranian leader take steps that would support his public declarations in February, in which he said that Iran “would never develop nuclear weapons.” The U.S., Obama also wrote, would also expect Iranian leaders to prove that Tehran does not have a military nuclear program.
Now that sounds like an American (rather than simply Israeli) position with which to commence negotiation and end the threat of war. The question is whether Netanyahu and the lobby will permit the United States to move forward with that offer, and whether Congress (AIPAC’s bailiwick) will ever go along with anything AIPAC doesn’t want.
Hopefully the President understands that neither the Israeli nor the Iranian people want war. In fact, no one does other than the lobby and its far right allies. Neither will ultimately support Obama anyway, especially given today’s Times revelation that Netanyahu and Mitt Romney have been close friends and allies since 1976, a relationship the Times calls “unprecedented”.
As a recent poll demonstrated, only 4% of Jewish Americans vote or give money based on Israel anyway. If Obama is smart, he’ll concede that 4% to Romney and just do the right thing.