Israel and the Secret History of the Iran Deal

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.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

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

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority