Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Iran Is Beginning to Look Different - and so Is Israel

After years of economic stifling under current and continuous sanctions, Iran is finally attempting
to make negotiations and international dialogue a worthwhile venture.

Although this arguably presents the world with progress that has been awaited for decades, President Barack Obama faces fierce opposition home and abroad. Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker (R) has served the president with a pledge of undoing all current progress reached at the table with Iran - though his intentions on running for office are not yet clear.

The landscape of regional politics is shifting at a historical pace, presenting new issues. Israel, America's closest ally in the Middle East, is at odds with the US on two key issues: agreeing upon how to limit Iran's nuclear capabilities and the two-state solution. Both have shown Benjamin Netanyahu as fiercely defiant in maintaining the regional status quo, clad with uncertainty and mistrust.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has won the Israeli elections, but not before flamboyantly asserting the will of Israelis over Palestinians. Such racial rhetoric has President Obama in an extremely awkward political scenario during the final leg of his second term. An association of this kind is not what the President is looking for after the events in Ferguson and New York, which have brought to the world's attention discrimination in the United States.

The progress achieved by the P5+1 is laudable, with the framework outlining a reduction in both
low-enriched uranium and reducing Iran's number of centrifuges to just around 6,000 (approximately 19,000 centrifuges are currently installed at the Natanz enrichment plant, according to the Arms Control Association).

Yet, that doesn't go far enough in the eyes of US Republicans and, indeed, the Israeli leadership, who seek to further lower these numbers as part of any agreement with Iran. Josh Mitnick of the Wall Street Journal spoke of the possibility of Congress "overriding a Presidential veto". This would be a dull-witted mistake considering the efforts that have gone into the current agreement and how long it has taken for this to be accomplished.

The very intentions of the framework, a show of bilateral efforts to secure international consensus, is historical in itself. Relations between the United States and Iran are, at this fragile moment, as good as they have ever been, since the cessation of the former government of Reza Shah Pahlavi and remodeling of the country into an Islamic Republic.

While it is difficult to construe the intentions of Iran and with the fact remaining that even a significantly subjugated nuclear program poses a clear threat, a step has been taken in the right direction and stepping back now would cross the line twice.

The question that arises now is whether allowing the relationship between Israel and Obama's administration to falter based on these two key issues will bring further volatility to the region.
Bipartisanship between the two nations remains critical in attempting to loosen the grip that the Islamic State currently exerts throughout entire regions of Iraq and Syria. More worryingly, there are signs of the Islamic State establishing a presence in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

While Israel has not provided support in the physical sense, Moshe Ya'alon, former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, has confirmed that Israel is providing the coalition with valuable intelligence. With airstrikes meaning no presence on the ground and little way of gathering intelligence, this contribution is as important as any number of fighter planes it could provide.

Addressing the two-state solution during an interview with the New York Times, Prime Minister Netanyahu maintained that granting Palestine statehood would lead to radicalization in tune with the efforts of the Islamic State and put Israelis at further risk. He went on to blame left-wing parties for overlooking the dangers that Palestinian statehood would pose for Israel.

For Iranians, afflicted by years of sanctions, the preliminary agreement between the P5+1 and their government is nothing short of a miracle. Iran's moderate President, Hassan Rouhani, is likely the
clearest indication that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is willing to take Iran off the list of rogue nations, where it has for so long been stuck besides the likes of North Korea and Cuba. Well, just
North Korea now.

Netanyahu's coalition and Republicans will need to embrace a new tactic of diplomacy: good faith.
Without this, it is more than likely that years will pass before a comprehensive dialogue is reestablished and those are years that the people of Iran will continue to endure the effects of sanctions.

For relations between his coalition and President Obama's administration to ever regain their former semblance, Prime Minister Netanyahu will need to accept the final agreement and, at the very least, be conservatively open to the idea of establishing a Palestinian state in the not-too-distant future.

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