For sake of stability in Middle East, US and Israel should patch up ties

For sake of stability in Middle East, US and Israel should patch up ties

A major rift has emerged between two nations that are longtime sworn friends regarding suspicions over Iran's nuclear development programme. This is an extraordinary situation.

At a time when nuclear negotiations between Iran and major powers including the United States, Russia and key European nations are coming into the homestretch, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has delivered a speech to the US Congress in which he publicly slammed the potential agreement being discussed as a "very bad deal."

Elsewhere in his speech, Netanyahu said the "deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons" and "we're better off without it."

He insisted on the total abolition of Iran's nuclear-related facilities.

With an Israeli general election set for March 17, Netanyahu likely had political motivations for showcasing his hard-line stance toward Iran.

We can describe this speech as only an unproductive action that has poured cold water on the efforts of the international community to seek a peaceful resolution to this nuclear problem.

Netanyahu's visit to the United States came about through an invitation by House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner that bypassed the White House.

Boehner and his Republican Party are sceptical about the Iran nuclear talks. In a sign of discontent over this process, US President Barack Obama did not meet with Netanyahu.

That these splits between the United States and Israel have been laid so bare is a serious situation.

We hope both sides can patch up their relations quickly to help prevent further instability in the Middle East, but little optimism is warranted.

The fact that confrontation between the two main US political parties is having a negative impact on US diplomacy also cannot be overlooked.

Tread carefully

In November 2013, Iran reached a "first-step" agreement with the United States, Russia and key European nations.

Under this deal, Tehran agreed to halt the enrichment of uranium to a concentration of 20 per cent and also suspend work on key components of a heavy-water reactor that could someday produce plutonium.

Both sides are seeking to reach a "framework deal" by the end of March, and a final deal by the end of June.

The main pillars of such agreements are recognising that Iran still has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear power, and that sanctions against Iran will be lifted if it takes steps including reducing the number of centrifuges it operates.

Obama has less than two years left to serve in office. There is speculation that the president wants to make this nuclear deal part of his administration's legacy.

However, he should not be hasty in wrapping up the agreement.

The United States should demand a deal that is comprehensive and verifiable to prevent Iran's nuclear development.

It also cannot be denied that Obama's erratic diplomacy vis-a-vis the Middle East has invited this backlash from Israel.

In recent years, Iran - the nation with the largest Shiite majority - has been strengthening its influence in other nations under Shiite leadership such as Iraq and Syria, as well as Lebanon and Yemen.

The United States and Iran share common concerns when it comes to mopping up operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a Sunni extremist organisation.

As a consequence, the Obama administration reached out to Iran, a nation with which the United States has not had diplomatic ties for 35 years. It has been pointed out that both nations are in a joint struggle behind the scenes in operations against ISIL.

In some respects, Washington had no option but to approach Tehran.

But for the sake of stability in the entire Middle East, it is essential that the United States also gives consideration to its allies in the region, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Obama should do more to carefully explain this new strategy toward Iran and to gain greater support for it.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.