Israel and the Secret History of the Iran Deal

March 31 2017

In The Iran Wars, Jay Solomon tells the story of the warfare and diplomacy—sometimes overt, more often covert—between the United States and the Islamic Republic since the fall of 2001, when Washington became aware that Tehran was meddling in Afghanistan and harboring al-Qaeda fugitives. The book also documents a largely successful campaign of financial warfare begun by the Bush administration in 2006, slowed by President Obama almost immediately after he took office, and then used—or, perhaps, wasted—as leverage to obtain the nuclear deal. Jordan Chandler Hirsch writes in his review:

Solomon has excavated many of the deeper patterns that underlay the nuclear diplomacy. . . . John Kerry, whose role in The Iran Wars is as a kind of diplomatic Don Quixote, dashed around the region, proposing to visit Tehran in 2009 and floating massive U.S. concessions without full White House approval. . . . [The] Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, responded by tweeting “Happy Rosh Hashanah,” an act of ecumenism that reportedly astonished Obama staffers. A sweet greeting here, a moderate move there: the Islamic Republic’s rhetorical morsels fed an insatiable American appetite for fantasies of a Tehran transformed.

Yet those fantasies weren’t simply about Iran. They were also about redefining America’s role in the world. For a few key figures in the administration, the nuclear talks represented something much more than preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. . . . President Obama seemed to believe that history was trending in America’s direction and that the best approach was to avoid needless confrontations that could interrupt that process. If the goal was for the United States to get out of history’s way, the greatest threat to the project was the Iranian nuclear crisis. The possibility of war, after all, meant the possibility of American imposing itself once again in the Middle East and on the globe.

The prospect of American action against Iran was just as likely to materialize as a result of a unilateral strike by Israel, which would almost certainly draw in U.S. forces. This explains why the Obama administration so feared Israeli action—a fear that in some ways defined American diplomacy with Iran. . . . The Iran Wars may [in fact] underemphasize Israel’s role in the moral and political calculus behind the Iran deal. . . . Barack Obama’s nuclear diplomacy was almost as much a contest of wills with Israel as it was with Iran. For generations, a strong U.S.-Israel relationship embodied and necessitated American leadership in the region; downgraded ties signaled a reduced regional role for the United States, with the added benefit, for some administration officials, of weakening the pro-Israel lobby in the United States.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Barack Obama, Iran, John Kerry, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy