MER – A dangerous and harmful letter to Iran

A dangerous and harmful letter to IranThe letter to Iranian leaders signed by 47 US Senators, all from the Republican Party, is further evidence of what we already knew: Not only have domestic politics in the US become increasingly polarized and dysfunctional, but so has US foreign policy. The letter makes clear to Iranian leaders that the deal being negotiated is just an andldquoexecutive agreementandrdquo and that andquotthe next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen, and future congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.

andquot Predictably, the White House reacted strongly, with President Barack Obama saying, andquotItand#39s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran.andquotThe letter is also further evidence that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu achieved his goal with his controversial speech to Iran.

It will not be surprising if the letter helps him win more votes from the Israeli right in the upcoming elections. It must also be noted that the letter not only undermines Iranand#39s will to negotiate but it also negatively impacts the credibility of the US in the eyes of Russia and China, two United Nations Security Council members that are also at the table with Washington in negotiations with Iran.

We tend to forget that the nuclear talks are not just between the US and Iran. Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany are also involved.

And China and Russia are the two weakest links in this alliance. The reason is simple.

If talks collapse, they will be the first ones to undermine the solidarity behind effective sanctions. The irony is that Israel and the Republican senators are pushing events exactly in that direction.

Finally, put yourself in the shoes of the Iranian leadership. How would you react if you received such a letter? Not surprisingly, your belief in Obamaand#39s ability to deliver will diminish.

The nature of the agreement calls for 10 years of intensive and intrusive inspections to keep Iranand#39s uranium enrichment in check. In return, during these 10 years the sanctions will be incrementally loosened.

For the US, the credibility of this arrangement, which is still being negotiated, is essential. The key goal for Washington has been to convince Iran to an agreement with a long duration.

If Iran agrees, the hope is that time will be on the side of reformers.Netanyahu, of course, disagrees.

He stressed that the future expiration of the agreement is a key worry for Israel. In the eyes of Washington, the domestic dynamics of Iran present a different picture: There is a next generation of potentially more moderate clerics and politicians who will come after the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who is 75 and reportedly in bad health.

As President Obama made clear, the most negative dimension of the letter is that it will strengthen the hands of the hawks and hard-liners who donand#39t want a deal with Washington. Worst, it will enable them to blame Washingtonand#39s lack of credibility as a negotiating partner in abandoning the agreement.

For Obama, it is crucial to assure exactly the opposite perspective. In the eyes of the international community Iran needs to be blamed if there is no deal.

This is the only way multilateral sanctions can be maintained effectively against Iran. If the world perceives that the potential deal will collapse because of dysfunctional US domestic politics, Iran would gain undeserved legitimacy.

To the dismay of the White House, the letter helps moves the dynamic in that direction.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman