Monday, September 30, 2013

Evening Update: 'Netanyahu Holds His Tongue', But...

We're early in this process of PM Netanyahu's trip to the U.S. and tomorrow he will give his speech to the UN which should be very interesting. Today was an important day as he met with Obama and two articles have just become available with analysis on this meeting:

Netanyahu Holds His Tongue

The prime minister “is always candid,” Obama vouchsafed just a little wryly at the tail end of his remarks. And one can imagine that Netanyahu was candid indeed behind closed doors, marshaling compelling argument, and evidence, to underpin his public contention that Iran “is committed to Israel’s destruction.”

But ultimately, Netanyahu knew all along that he and Obama would have to agree to disagree, that the president would not be deterred from putting the diplomatic route to the “test,” and that attempting a repeat of his May 2011 Oval Office lecture style (when he told Obama bitterly that Israel’s pre-1967 lines are indefensible) could only be counter-productive. He is certain there is no diplomatic route, only a blind ally, but he held his tongue.
And so Obama — much more familiar with Netanyahu’s thinking, and with Israel’s nuances, after his visit in March — could afford to be magnanimous.
Thus the president stressed that a nuclear Iran would threaten US and Israeli security, and that America’s commitment to Israel’s security “is stronger than ever.” He promised that economic pressure on Iran would not be lifted lightly, assuring his visitor airily that “anything that we do will require the highest standards of verification in order for us to provide the sort of sanctions relief that I think they are looking for.” And importantly for Netanyahu, he declared that “we take no options off the table, including military options, in terms of making sure that we do not have nuclear weapons in Iran” — a threat he had chosen not to issue in the specific Iranian context during his address to the United Nations General Assembly last Tuesday.
There are those might see in Obama’s restating of the military option, and his apparent tough line on sanctions, a victory of sorts for Netanyahu. But in truth, anything less would have been a stinging public rejection of Israel’s assessments and orientation.
Netanyahu has no time for Hasan Rouhani’s we’re-no-threat-to-anyone platitudes. He is certain that Tehran is fooling the international community, and that the regime is duplicitously seeking to attain and retain nuclear break out status — with the means and the material to make a dash for the bomb when it so chooses. That must not be allowed to happen, and so for Netanyahu, as he put it on Monday, “the bottom line, again, is that Iran fully dismantles its military nuclear program.”
Yet for Obama, now at least, there is a modicum of doubt, and a readiness to consider that Iran might just be changing for real. Or a readiness, at least, to play out the diplomatic track.
In what he considers the certain event that Iran proves obdurate and unforthcoming, Netanyahu would like the US to intervene militarily, or failing that to back Israel in doing so.
But the Israeli option has plainly receded for the time being, since the prime minister can hardly contemplate military action so long as the president is engaging with Iran and giving talks a chance. If, as Netanyahu has always contended, the Iranians are buying time, he has little choice but to hold his fire and wait things out. In eschewing the bitter public lecture style on Monday, Netanyahu seemed to be acknowledging as much.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s get-together at the White House Monday, Sept. 30 turned into an amicable joust over their differences on how to handle Iran’s nuclear program without bridging them.  As a friendly gesture to Israel, Obama said that no options, including the military one, were off the table for preventing Iran attaining a nuclear weapon, on which he and Netanyahu were agreed. He also agreed that Iran must prove its sincerity in actions, not just words.
But they were nowhere near the “same page” as US officials have claimed.
The prime minister insisted that Iran must dismantle its military nuclear program altogether and halt the production of enriched uranium. And if Tehran continued to develop its program while conducting negotiations, sanctions must be tightened. Obama did not endorse those demands.
Whereas Israel is convinced that if Iran is not stopped right now, it will reach the breakout capacity to assembly a nuclear bomb whenever it chooses, the US president would be satisfied with an Iranian pledge to refrain from weaponizing its nuclear assets. Netanyahu noted Israel’s situation was different in that it lived under a threat of annihilation by Iran.

The wily supreme leader Ali Khamenei in fact sees his chance of turning the situation around to the Islamic Republic’s advantage. He grasps that the American and Russian leaders are in a hurry to reap the results of the Obama administration’s decision to forswear a military option for bringing Tehran round. Their headlong quest for quick results gives Tehran the leverage for extracting previously withheld concessions on its nuclear program, such as extreme flexibility on its enriched uranium production and stocks.
Netanyahu may hear Obama promising to stand by his demand that Iran stop enriching uranium and export the bulk of its stocks, or surrender it for destruction like Syria’s chemical weapons. But he will also discover that Obama and Putin are running ahead together at breakneck speed after dropping Israel by the wayside. 
And the negotiations with Iran behind the scenes - and continuing in Geneva on Oct. 15 with the five Security Council powers and Germany - are more than likely to produce a compromise unacceptable to Israel.

Iran and Russia will have to make some concessions for a deal. But so too will the United States, and the uranium enrichment issue will loom large in the way of an agreement unless Washington gives way on that point. Obama has already covered much of this ground in secret contacts with Tehran.
The tempo of the negotiations, dictated by Obama and Putin, will make it easy to blur facts and the present minor concessions as major achievements.

Meeting to talk about, in President Obama’s words, “these hectic times” before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United Nations tomorrow, the PM reminded POTUS that Iran “is committed to Israel’s destruction.”
Netanyahu noted to Obama “there are many things on your plate, but I know that you know and the American people know that there is no better ally — more reliable, more stable, more democratic — other than Israel in a very raw, dangerous place.”
“For Israel, the ultimate test of a future agreement with Iran is whether or not Iran dismantles its military nuclear program.  We have a saying in Hebrew, we call it mivchan hatotza’a — you would say it in English, what’s the bottom line? And the bottom line, again, is that Iran fully dismantles its military nuclear program,” the prime minister continued.
“…It is Israel’s firm belief that if Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during negotiations, the sanctions should be strengthened.  It’s the combination, I believe, that has guided your policy and our policy so far, that is good credible military threat and strong sanctions I think is still the only formula that can get a peaceful resolution of this problem.”
“We know that for peace to endure, it must be based on Israel’s capacity to defend itself, by itself,” Netanyahu added.
Before departing Jerusalem, Netanyahu vowed to “speak the truth” before the UN General Assembly.
“I will present our rights as a nation, our determination to defend ourselves and our hopes for peace. I will speak the truth. Facts must be stated in the face of the sweet talk and the blitz of smiles,” he said. “I intend to focus on the issue of stopping Iran’s nuclear program. The way to stop Iran’s nuclear program requires four steps: 1) Halting all uranium enrichment: 2) Removing all enriched uranium; 3) Closing Qom; and 4) Stopping the plutonium track.”

No comments: