The only countries that have played it right are Canada; Egypt, which is now
going to receive American weapons; and Iran itself, which will continue to
profit from oil sales while making strategic promises it won’t keep. This
is not about Iranian nuclear weapons. It is about the entire region.
have Canada, Egypt and Iran gotten it right? In large part, Canada has ignored
the proposed deal, because it doesn’t trust Iran to deliver on any of its
promises nor does it believe Iran will change its policy if sanctions end. Iran
is not going to change its policy, and Egypt is wisely and cleverly acting in
its national interests.
These three countries have simply followed what
international diplomacy should be about – the pursuit of national interests, and
humanitarian interests when possible. Canada was right, because it was
suspicious of radical Islamists, who would push hard to try to get everything
and give nothing in return. That it is not a profitable
As for Iran, this is precisely about money and defense, not
nuclear weapons. Iran wants to get the largest possible amount of money – say
$20 billion dollars – but not abandon nuclear weapons completely, knowing Israel
cannot attack it. And Egypt is using its strategic leverage. The military
government is in power, and the regime will not allow revolutionary Islamists to
attack freely, especially after the past two years’ experience.
example, revolutionary Islamists do not make concessions. That is not the way
they bargain. Islamist Iran will never stop seeking nuclear weapons; it will be
patient about it. The real danger to the Iranian regime is economic collapse
from sanctions, and the potential gain would be for Iran to achieve its true
ambitions – mainly, a Shi’ite bloc made of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq; and the
destruction of Israel, which won’t work.
Egypt played it tough and will
probably be the only Arab state that has gained anything. Nevertheless, the
Egyptians have so lost confidence in the United States that they just signed a
$2 million agreement to buy weapons from Russia. This takes the world back
almost 60 years, to 1955, when Egypt was a Soviet client and was buying all its
arms from the Soviet Union. Egypt then managed to obtain Russian arms deals for
money and yet a US arms deal for free! Why has Canada gained? Because when the
arms deal with Iran collapses, Canada will not be holding the bag.
are not the only problems with the deal. For example, look at the
Israel-Palestinian Authority question. They cannot make a deal without Gaza’s
involvement. And yet nobody – including the United States and Russia – is going
to force Gaza to be included in the peace agreement.
In fact, even the PA
will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, its only precondition. In an
interview, Palestinian leader Farouq Qaddoumi commented: “...we were
enthusiastic supporters of Germany. This was common among the Palestinians,
especially since our enemy was Zionism, and we saw that Zionism was hostile to
Germany, and vice versa.”
Qaddoumi is honest, at least in mentioning this
fact, especially to a news station and when WWII is still referred to as a great
patriotic war. At the same time, a main representative of the Muslim
Brotherhood in Europe denies that it too was a partner in this alliance, while
Iran’s leader refers to Israel as “Nazi.”
I can imagine that the West
could agree to Assad staying on in Syria, but I could never agree that the PA
will recognize Israel as a Jewish state. It would never do that, even if it were
to get a state immediately, because its goal is in fact a state from the Jordan
River to the Mediterranean.
Iran wants to lead a Shi’ite bloc consisting
of Hezbollah, Syria and – if possible – Iraq. The West supposedly thinks that
the deal will be to retain Assad. Yet Syrian rebels, supported by Saudi Arabia
and Qatar, view this as a betrayal. They will not make a deal that officially
keeps Assad in power in Syria.
Also, Iran is now backing the Sunni Hamas,
which the Egyptians are suspicious of and view as a threat. Mohamed Morsi
has just been indicted for getting support from Hamas, Hezbollah and
Iran. Meanwhile, Turkey thinks it will be able to play up to Iran because
of economic deals between the two.
How will Iran be challenged when
Turkey is running Syria’s civil war against the Iranian bloc? Even according to
US intelligence (stated foreign policy), Iranian commandos just raided an Iraqi
compound in Ashraf that was housing an Iranian dissident group, the Mujahideen-e
Khalq (MEK), kidnapping seven members and killing over 50.
think it can include armed anti-Iranian (Kurdish) dissidents (the PKK) and
Syrian dissidents in its bloc? That might put a crimp on billions of dollars in
bilateral trade. By the way, the US had already supposedly promised Iraq that
the MEK would be protected, another source of accusations of “cowboy”
behavior. A US official commenting on the Ashraf attack noted, “Iraqi
soldiers didn’t get in the way of what was happening at Ashraf.”
to say it, but it is almost as if the Obama administration just wants to keep
the supposed “deal” alive until after the 2014 elections. It wants to be able to
say, “Do you see what a great diplomatic triumph we achieved in the Middle East,
resolving all problems?,” only then to let the deal collapse.
This is of
course the reason President Obama said there is only a 50-50 chance with the
Iran deal. Usually, the president and secretary of state do not talk about the
certainty of deals before they are much closer to being completed.The
author is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA)
Center, at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. He is co-author of a new book,
Nazis, Islamist, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, Yale University
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