Netanyahu Attacks Iran in US Congress: Deceitful Show
Nikolai BOBKIN | 09.03.2015 | OPINION

Netanyahu Attacks Iran in US Congress: Deceitful Show

…Before getting on the plane for Washington, Mr. Netanyahu described his trip as a «fateful and even historic mission». According to him, his dramatic address to the U.S. Congress at what he said was a «fateful» crossroads of history». In his first address to Congress in 1996, he warned that an atomic Iran would «presage catastrophic consequences, not only for my country, and not only for the Middle East, but for all mankind». Little has changed since those days. 

Barack Obama ignored the event. Talking to journalists after the Netanyahu’s address, the President noted sarcastically, «I did have a chance to take a look at the transcript. And as far as I can tell, there was nothing new. The Prime Minister I think appropriately pointed out that the bond between the United States and America is unbreakable, and on that point, I thoroughly agree». He stressed the words «unbreakable bond» to let understand that his conflict with Israeli Prime Minister would not negatively affect the bilateral relations. The United States is not going to spoil the relations with Israel, as well as the administration will not cease its activities to stop the Iran’s nuclear program. But Obama does not want to lose the image of «peacemaker» and the leader who spearheaded the process aimed at closure of Iran’s nuclear dossier. Susan Rice, the United States national security advisor, said that Congress has played a central role in building the sanctions regime that the U.S. and its allies have imposed on Iran. «They shouldn't play the spoiler now,» Rice said. The Netanyahu’s stage act actually frustrates the US diplomatic efforts. The stance adopted by Israeli Prime Minister is in stark contrast with the approach adopted by Obama. The Washington’s policy leads to establishing control over the Iran’s nuclear program while recognizing the Tehran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Israel wants to entirely eliminate Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Former Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz is a Netanyahu confidant and point man on the Iranian nuclear issue. He offered a breakdown of Israeli concerns. Steinitz believes the Obama’s policy is unacceptable, «With 6,00o centrifuges, this reduces the breakout time to less than one year,» he said. «This is unacceptable». Netanyahu wants zero. Once Iran will never accept anything like that, the talks are nothing but a waste of time. There is nothing to talk about and the Obama’s efforts are doomed to go down the drain. Instead of making him rest on peacemaker’s laurels, the Iran’s policy during the recent two years may produce another reason to say Obama is incompetent when it comes to foreign policy. Can the US President save his reputation? 

In his remarks on the Netanyahu’s speech, Obama said, «He (Netanyahu) also pointed out that Iran has been a dangerous regime and continues to engage in activities that are contrary to the interest of the United States, to Israel, and to the region. And on that we agree». The President added that «He also pointed out the fact that Iran has repeatedly threatened Israel and engaged in the most venomous of anti-Semitic statements, and no one can dispute that». Obama emphasized that he was no less interested in preventing Israel from going nuclear as it would increase the threat and expand the Iran’s range of action. It means that the Unites States is no less hostile towards Iran than Israel, but, as Obama emphasized, Netanyahu never comes up with viable options to offer. The US President said that the efforts to curb the Iran’s nuclear program topped his foreign policy agenda during the second term. According to him, «I've said since before I became president that one of my primary goals in foreign policy would be preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and with the help of Congress and our international partners, we constructed an extraordinarily effective sanctions regime that pressured Iran to come to the table to negotiate in a serious fashion». It’s well known what he means by «serious fashion»: sanctions, blackmail and the threats to use military force have become instruments normally used by US diplomacy. Iran is kind of a champion among the victims of discriminatory acts applied against other states. The United States does not hide its satisfaction when it comes to estimating the damage inflicted on Iran. 

According to Kenneth Katzman, an expert on the Middle East with the Congressional Research Service, Iran annually loses 15-20% of GDP as a result of sanctions. Iran’s crude oil exports are about 1.1 million barrels per day (mbd) at the end of 2013—far below the 2.5 million barrels per day Iran exported during 2011. By the end of 2013 it had left around $100 billion of gold and foreign currency reserves but the Iranian government has unencumbered access to only $20 billion of those. The rest are frozen. The fall in trade has made many private companies go to the wall leaving every fifth Iranian out of work as a result. According to government estimates, unemployment rate is 13%. 

Some want to toughen the sanctions regime but President Obama resists the pressure so far, saying that sanctions are not sufficient to prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. The White House understands that the weight of sanctions is the main reason to make Iranians stay and continue the talks. All the recent statements by US officials stress that the President will veto any Congress resolutions on toughening the anti-Iran sanctions regime. That’s what the President repeated in his remarks on the Netanyahu’s speech. But it did not deceive Tehran. «It is clear that Mr. Obama’s comments are meant to win the US public opinion and counter the propaganda campaign by the Israeli Prime Minister and that of other radical parties opposed to the negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear energy program,» Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the American President’s latest remarks on Iran as «unacceptable». «The remarks by Mr. Obama clearly point to the fact that the US, which has over the past decades, either directly or indirectly threatened the Islamic Republic of Iran and imposed many cruel and illegal sanctions [against the country], has come to the conclusion that the policy of threats and sanctions is a failed policy», Zarif said.

Iran continues to insist that the issue should be tackled by the P5+1 (namely the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany) acting according to the United Nations mandate. Javad Zarif dismissed US President Barack Obama's recent comments on Iran as unacceptable, stressing that Tehran will not give in to excessive demands by the other side in the nuclear negotiations. The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech before US Congress and said that Mr. Netanyahu was spreading lies about the Iranian nuclear program. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said the address was boring. She called the speech a deceitful show and part of the hardliners’ political propaganda in Tel Aviv. (8)

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