Why Saudi-Israeli Team Hates Iran Deal

The Saudi-Israeli alliance opposes a diplomatic settlement with Iran over its nuclear program because the deal could kill hopes for enlisting the U.S. military in one more violent regime change in the Middle East, as the Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland explains.

By Ivan Eland

Why are Israel, Saudi Arabia, and their congressional allies in both American political parties trying to kill an interim nuclear deal with Iran that effectively freezes (and in some instances rolls back) the Iranian nuclear program until a comprehensive deal can be reached to permanently limit the program so that Iran cannot build a nuclear bomb?

In the lead-up to the interim deal, if one wanted to be charitable, one could have assumed that these hawks were acting as the “bad cop,” using the threat of even more economic sanctions to strengthen the Obama administration’s “good cop” hand to exert maximum pressure on Iran to limit its nuclear program. However, after an interim deal has been reached, these same hardliners are likely to push Congress to ratchet up sanctions anyway in a blatant attempt to kill that deal and further negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Of course, President Obama can likely successfully veto their efforts, but unfortunately their motivation for taking this barefaced course can only be attributed to rejecting peace for war with Iran.

In both America and Israel, politicians customarily need to pretend to avoid war, even though intentions are otherwise. For example, before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush blamed Saddam Hussein for kicking out international weapons inspectors trying to find what turned out to be nonexistent “weapons of mass destruction”, a hostile act, when the inspectors really exited that country because of the imminent U.S. attack.

Today’s hawks have claimed falsely that the interim agreement rolls back no part of Iran’s nuclear program and have vehemently opposed the deal because it is not tough enough.

First of all, generating enough fissionable material is the toughest step to building a nuclear bomb, and three paths exist to get there: 1) by further enriching uranium already enriched to 20 percent; 2) by using fast centrifuges to enrich 3.5 percent uranium; and 3) to make plutonium using a heavy water nuclear reactor.

The interim accord rolls back the first by requiring Iran to eliminate its stockpile of 20 percent uranium one way or another, and it essentially freezes numbers two and three. The second is frozen by prohibiting the installation and operation of new centrifuges and by capping Iran’s stockpile of 3.5 percent uranium. The third is frozen by prohibiting Iran from testing or producing nuclear fuel for the Arak heavy water reactor or making it operational.

The agreement also provides for strict international inspections to make sure Iran is complying with this freeze/rollback. Meanwhile, the United States and the international community have kept the core of their economic sanctions, shutting Iran out of the world’s banking system and a ban on the importation of Iranian oil, the country’s life’s blood, until a comprehensive deal can be reached, with only a minor unfreezing of certain Iranian overseas assets until then.

One might ask the hawks blatantly trying to scuttle the interim agreement what alternative they propose. They claim that they instead want a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, which is permitted by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as long as it is not used to make a bomb, an outcome that has no chance of happening.

Meanwhile, during any complex and lengthy negotiation toward such an end state of nirvana, Iran could string the West along while continuing to make more progress toward getting the bomb. At least the interim agreement freezes the Iranian program until negotiations on a more comprehensive agreement can be attempted.

Even if those future negotiations eventually fail, it would seem that the interim agreement provides a “pareto improvement.” This is a fancy economic term for making at least one party better off without making the other worse off. In this case, both parties seem better off because Iran gets some slight sanctions relief, and the West gets a verifiable freeze on Iran’s nuclear program while an attempt is made to negotiate severe permanent constraints on Iran’s ability to make a nuclear bomb.

The hawks, the Israelis, the Saudis, and their congressional allies, however, oppose this pareto improvement for the two negotiating parties, because it’s not a pareto improvement for them. If the goal were to limit Iran’s nuclear program, the interim agreement would seem to offer at least no downside.

However, if the real objective is to weaken Iran as power in the Middle East through a military attack by either the United States or Israel, using Iran’s nuclear program as an excuse, the interim agreement, and of course any future comprehensive agreement laying the Iranian nuclear issue to rest for good, is a disaster because it removes the imperative for any military strike.

Behind the façade of the Iran nuclear issue, what the hawks really fear is that a general rapprochement between the U.S. superpower and Iran, made possible by a nuclear deal, could lead to realignment in the Mideast region to the perceived detriment of Israel and Saudi Arabia, each of whose archenemy is Iran.

Their reasoning goes that if the United States settles some of its differences with Iran and has a better relationship with that country, Iran’s power will grow at their expense. That explains the hawks’ white-hot opposition to a rather benign interim agreement, which could eventually lead to peace, instead of war, with Iran.

Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland has spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. His books include Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, and Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.

7 comments for “Why Saudi-Israeli Team Hates Iran Deal

  1. Joe Tedesky
    December 10, 2013 at 02:23

    My comments are not meant to demonize any nation. All these countries including America leave a lot to consider when it comes to their integrity, especially when we recount all of their pass transgressions toward each other.

    I have stated this before that this Iran getting a nuke scare is out of hand. My whole life starting out as a baby boomer was growing up knowing we could get nuked at ant time via Russia. We didn’t bomb Russian centrifugals, or any of their missile sites. For that reason I say what is the big deal.

    What should be happening, and isn’t, is we should be negotiating a nuclear reduction program world wide. Israel if they do have nukes would be included. I will stand with the Jewish people, as I will stand with my fellow Americans, but does that mean I will agree with their/our leaders on every policy? I think not.

    Iran may have what seems to us a medieval style government, but who am I to change that. I can’t get my own government to do everything I believe needs done.
    Recyclable’s go out in blue bins every other Wednesday…okay!

    After all of that I love diverse comments to my post, as much as I like when people agree with me. This is America boys and girls and that to me means we are not all the same.

    WhoRa! Go team America!

  2. Gregory Kruse
    December 9, 2013 at 14:33

    How about the pre-medieval theocracy?

  3. Joe Tedesky
    December 8, 2013 at 02:16

    Recently there has been a lot of discussion on this website about Chamberlain and the Munich Agreement. If this p5+1 Geneva agreement where the Munich Agreement then Hitler would have been confined to Berlin.

    For all the talk about Iranian regime change well what’s wrong with President Rouhani. If establishing peace were our goal then this newly elected Iranian would seem just the guy. Rouhani would be the one who we would have been waiting for. In fact we should allow him to look good in front of his people. Especially since Rouhani is a western friendly moderate. Lifting sanctions of 7 billion dollars while still keeping 93 billion can’t make Rouhani look that strong to his people.

    There is a lot to be said of President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and Secretary Hagel, but I am glad it’s them, and not Romney and Ryan. I am sure that Israel and Saudi Arabia would get their war if this were a republican president in the White House.

    I think Saudi Arabia and Israel don’t want to share their Big Daddy. It could be that simple!

  4. Hillary
    December 8, 2013 at 00:04

    Why am I not allowed to comment ?

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 8, 2013 at 17:46

      Hillary I have had problems as well in the past. Get out of the site then bring it back up and try again. Check the code if it changes then I think it may work.

      Hope to hear what you have to say …

      • Hillary
        December 9, 2013 at 13:51

        “Hope to hear what you have to say ”

        Thank you Joe Tedesky I wish it were true .
        Alas my comments get the
        “Your comment is awaiting moderation. ” message and are soon removed.
        Its called censorship ….
        BTW your “I think Saudi Arabia and Israel don’t want to share their Big Daddy. It could be that simple!” comment is an excellent one.

  5. F. G. Sanford
    December 7, 2013 at 19:31

    The American hawks and their AIPAC cronies are whining over the “really really terrible horrible awful very bad deal”, and pushing for more sanctions. They’re claiming that the Iranians haven’t really given up anything, and there are only two ways to confront the issue: war, or more draconian sanctions.

    In the meantime, one wonders whether the logs in that raft of international sanctions will hold together. The ropes are starting to look a little rotten. Turkey, Europe, Russia, China, India and the Asian Cooperation Council countries all stand to benefit from ending the blockade. France and Britain, with unrest among immigrant populations, crippling unemployment, food shortages and crumbling economies might bite the American hand that thwarts their neocolonial pipe-dreams. Britain’s elderly are freezing in winter because they can’t buy fuel. Failed states are unpredictable.

    But, a real question must be addressed: “Can the United States continue to prop up the petrodollar as it prints phony money at zero percent interest to disguise bank fraud?” BRICS countries are already trading in basket currencies to evade the petrodollar scam. How much worse might it get if Iran sells oil in local currencies? China has already announced its intention to reduce its exposure to the inherent uncertainty of U.S. Treasuries.

    Common sense says the sanctions are doomed to fall apart regardless of what the economically illiterate AIPAC shills in Congress whine about. We’d be left with a choice between complete loss of international credibility or war, which we could pay for by taxing Wall Street…unless China lends us more money. Maybe Israel could even help us out by agreeing to a “petrodollar depletion allowance”. They could cut campaign contributions to our politicians, and reduce the foreign aid they extort from us by an amount equal to those bribes. Or, we could just cut Social Security and Medicare, thereby preserving that “special relationship”. My guess is, the deal will go through. But you can’t be too sure. After all, who’s more important to those hawks in Congress: Grandma…or Israel? The Emperor is naked, but Wall Street bought him new clothes. They came with a matching wallet. So, the petrodollars are clearly visible. The Ukrainians are counting them already, and dancing in the streets! Just imagine how happy they’ll be when they find out about collateralized debt obligations!

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