Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Iran nuclear talks have taken over the news headlines recently, but the underlying issue is actually pretty complicated and layered. We’re here to break down the basics and hopefully give you a better understanding of this whole situation.
What’s the deal with Iran?
Suspicion among world powers has arisen regarding Iran’s nuclear program. It’s believed that Iran is not being completely transparent about its program and may be working to build its own nuclear bomb; however, Iran insists that its program has peaceful intentions and that it is simply exercising its right to develop nuclear energy (bbc.com). In response to these suspicions, the US and five international partners (Russia, China, UK, France, and Germany) are working to create a deal with Iran that would limit its ability to develop nuclear weapons; the conflict centers around how strict these limitations should be. Negotiations have been going on for a while — and have been greatly colored by America’s alliance with Israel.
Obama and Netanyahu already have a strained relationship
Even before Netanyahu set foot on the hallowed ground of D.C., he was causing trouble for Obama and consequently for his loyal Democrats in Congress. The Israeli President arranged his trip with the help of House Speaker John Boehner, who invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress without being vetted by the White House (cnn.com). It turns out politicians are people too, and this personal blow, coupled with their different plans on restricting the growth of Iran’s nuclear program, has caused a bit of a riff between the two leaders. Fifty-six Democrats decided to skip out on the speech; Biden and Obama were also absent from the event (thehill.com).
This is a partisan issue for the US
Few American politicians would make a claim against Israel itself, seeing as the small peninsula is virtually the only democracy in the Middle East and a long-time ally; however, the speech has fueled some partisan flames. The US is currently brokering a deal with Iran, and a proposal to freeze sensitive nuclear activities for at least ten years has already been rejected (reuters.com). Netanyahu did little more than reject this plan, just as Iran has already done, and urge for support for Israel. Republicans rallied while Democrats, already stung by the diss to Obama, saw Netanyahu’s position as less-than-feasible. The drama continues.
This affects Israel as well
As for Israeli politics, this is nothing new. Little is secure in the 67-year-old nation, and threats from Iran are certainly not a first on the political scene. What is interesting about this trip to speak on Iran is its proximity to upcoming elections. Even Obama has declined to meet with Netanyahu on this trip, citing the elections coming up in two weeks (thehill.com). Netanyahu has said “the last thing that I would want is for Israel to become a partisan issue,” which is easy to believe, since it isn’t hard for a country to agree on not being threatened with nuclear weapons (npr.com). Bibi’s intentions become a little more clouded when one considers the shadiness of his entering into the Capital, and the message he is most likely trying to propagate in proclaiming his strong relation with the US. Even with all this, Netanyahu may not be safe from his growing unpopularity with his own citizens in the election.
The future of this deal is looking shaky
A final deal must be reached by June, so for now the focus is on the various parties—including the US, Iran, Israel, and other world powers—reconciling their diverging opinions before then. Based on the talks so far, the most likely outcome will be an agreement limiting Iran’s production of nuclear fuel for a minimum of ten years with some limitations expiring over time (nytimes.com). A lot of mystery remains surrounding Iran’s actions and intentions, and the deadline for the deal could be extended. This deal has the potential to be a great foreign policy triumph for the Obama administration.