Netanyahu’s tone was measured and direct, fitting the prestige of the chamber he was addressing. “That deal would not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons — it would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them,” he told Congress last Tuesday. It was classic Netanyahu in many ways – bold, dire, and ultimately a load of cowpuckey.
Netanyahu can’t claim to know what is happening in the “P5+1” talks to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program, and if he does know he can’t prove it publicly. These talks have been going on for nine years now and have always hinged on one sticking point – Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons. Any other result would have made the talks much easier and they would have been over by now. But these are important talks for reasons even larger than weapons of mass destruction.
Iran was brought to the table to discuss its nuclear ambitions by one very nasty reality – the regime of sanctions against it are by far the most crippling ever imposed against a nation. They include a complete cutoff from the world’s bank messaging system, SWIFT, which makes any transfer in or out of Iran extremely difficult. Even North Korea has access to this system and not not been as hermetically sealed to the outside world.
To be fair, it has been alleged that the Obama administration effectively relaxed sanctions by not pursuing leaks that allowed some money to flow in and out of Iran as long as they remained at the table, but this is hardly a “lifting” of the sanctions.
These sanctions are backed by a long litany of UN resolutions and the complete confidence of the US that one thing can never happen – Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons. No matter how desperate the situation becomes in Iran the seal around it has never been called into question by anyone. No matter how much the talks have dragged on Iran has always been monetarily, diplomatically, culturally, and politically isolated.
That is, actually, a lot of the problem. Iran is a rogue state that is not a part of the great family of nations in any way at all.
The status as a pariah includes their unilateral support of Hamas, which is the only entity currently actually shooting at Israel from time to time. They also support Hezbullah and other groups that are great forces for instability, destruction, and tremendous pain in the region. Everyone in the world needs an Iran which is a normal, peaceful nation that looks after its own and does not create chaos.
That has to be the ultimate goal of talking to Iran and bringing them back into the fold.
There is a potential great benefit for Iran and everyone in this process, too. Their great reserves of oil and gas would provide them with a lot of revenue to revive their crippled economy – and provide an alternative to Russian oil and gas for Europe, which desperately needs one. It would restore a balance to a region that has shown signs of flaring up into a war between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam, a conflict that would only destroy the Moslem world and create a refugee problem much bigger than the horror that is Syria today.
Long ago, the US had “The Nixon Doctrine” which held Saudi Arabia and Iran as the “Twin Pillars” of the region. Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the west has relied far too heavily on the Saudis for anyone’s comfort. Today, they may well be deliberately destroying US oil production and its associated jobs here in order to once again corner the oil market. One pillar apparently is not enough to support the region, especially when it is a medieval kingdom with its own modernity-defying roguish tendencies.
Can the negotiations work to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, lift the sanctions, and ultimately create an Iran that is a force for stability and peace? It seems like a lot to ask, and frankly Netanyahu is right to be skeptical. But it is worth trying – given the resolute solidarity that nuclear weapons are not an option first.
Will the talks work ahead of the deadline on 31 March? We don’t know just where they are, but there are reasons for hope. While Netanyahu’s speech did not produce the epic failure that Barataria predicted when it was announced, they may have affected the talks themselves and screwed up the one thing that Netanyahu was adamant about. The parties at the talks are apparently more resolute than ever to make something happen.
Barataria would like to present a modest proposal to jump start the talks and work towards not just eliminating the Iranian nuclear program but actively bringing Iran back into the family of nations. It’s a trust-building exercise that would cost very little to implement but go a long way towards ending the relentless war between us.
It starts with the US apologizing for our role in the 1953 coup that toppled Iran’s democratic government, something which we only recently admitted. Once that is done and some reparations announced, Iran could apologize for the seizure of our embassy in 1979. The US would then in turn apologize for shooting down Iran Air flight 655 in 1988, with the full “body price” from the Qu’ran paid to the families. Iran would then apologize for the 1983 Beruit embassy bombing with similar reparations.
There may be other events that we should all apologize for, but these stand out immediately.
Why go through this? Because there is no trust between Iran and the rest of the world, headed up by the US. There has to be to achieve the ultimate goal for these talks far beyond the nuclear program. There is a great benefit to everyone – especially Israel – if we can get as far as to have Iran stop supporting terrorist groups and fully rejoin the world.
Where Netanyahu is wrong is his belief that a hard line is the only way to go with Iran. There is nothing wrong with having a “Bad Cop” in Israel calling for this position, and perhaps that is all the Prime Minister is really doing at this point. But there is a lot for everyone beyond the nuclear weapons issue.
The world needs a legitimate Iran, and Iran needs to go legit. It’s that simple. Getting to that simple conclusion has proven incredibly difficult. But no matter what, it’s worth trying. We can all only hope the talks are successful – given the caveat that the top goal is an end to the Iranian nuclear program.
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