By Trita Parsi - Special to CNN
U.S.-Israeli relations are in a crisis over Iran. It has been in the making for quite some time – arguably since the early 1990s – and edging closer to climax by the minute. The personal chemistry between the leaders is abysmal – Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy recently discussed how they can’t stand Benjamin Netanyahu – and disagreements abound on the Arab uprisings, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on how to deal with Iran.
Publicly, the two sides claim to share a common objective with Iran, though they may assess risks differently. In reality, the divisions are much deeper. Israel is firmly committed to the zero-enrichment objective espoused by the George W. Bush administration, i.e. that the only acceptable way to prevent Iranian bomb is by preventing it from having nuclear technology, period. “Enrichment in Iran is certainly unacceptable,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told me in October 2010.
The Obama administration has left this issue vague, neither rejecting nor accepting this red line. Israel fears that in a final agreement, the Obama White House would accept enrichment in Iran, a fear fueled by the administration’s attempt to exchange Iranian low enriched uranium for fuel pads for a research reactor in Tehran earlier in 2009. Both France and Israel argued that the deal would legitimize Iranian enrichment. In Israel’s view, Obama has made America’s red lines flexible and unreliable.
And between bombing Iran and an Iranian bomb, Israel prefers the former. But it is not confident Obama shares that preference. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Trita Parsi is the author of the newly released book A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press, 2012).
By Trita Parsi – Special to CNN
Another Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated in Tehran and a familiar pattern is emerging: Weeks before a new round of talks, all sides escalate and provoke, mainly to improve their negotiating position at the upcoming talks.
The West has adopted new sanctions and is pressing for an oil embargo. The Iranians, in turn, has started enrichment at the Fordow facility and has warned it will close the Strait of Hormuz if the West proceeds with an oil embargo.
But there are also actors that escalate at times time not to strengthen their position at the talks, but to scuttle the talks. The attack on the British embassy in Tehran late last year was partly motivated by the desire of one political faction in Iran to undo the talks. Yesterday’s assassination of another Iranian nuclear scientist was likely conducted by a regional actor who prefers a military confrontation with Iran over a compromise that would permit Iran to retain nuclear enrichment capabilities, even if it doesn’t build a bomb.
Indeed, in late November 2010, nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari was assassinated in an identical way as the killing of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan yesterday. That assassination took pace only seven weeks before a new round of scheduled talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Istanbul.
Yesterday’s assassination also precedes the next round of talks with a few weeks.
Iran’s warning that it will close the Straits of Hormuz if an oil embargo is imposed on it has sent oil prices soaring and raised fears that yet another war in the Middle East may be in the making. These fears are not unfounded, particularly if diplomacy continues to be treated as a slogan rather than as a serious policy option.
“Not even a drop of oil will flow through the Persian Gulf,” Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned, according to the state-controlled Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). Washington quickly dismissed the threat as mere bluster. But energy markets react not just to the credibility of threats and warnings, but on the general level of tensions.
Editor's Note: Dr. Trita Parsi is the author of Treacherous Alliance – The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States (Yale University Press, 2007), recipient of the Council on Foreign Relation's 2008 Arthur Ross Silver Medallion and the 2010 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Dr. Parsi will be releasing his upcoming book A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama's Diplomacy with Iran (Yale University Press), early 2012.
Should the latest episode of Israeli calls for bombing Iran be taken seriously, or is it – like the many cases prior to it – yet another (politically motivated) false alarm? Like clockwork, Israeli alarm bells have gone off in the past fifteen years with predictable regularity. Bellicose statements by Israeli officials have been followed by alarmist analyses describing military measures as both necessary and inevitable. And then, without any explanation, the bellicosity recedes and Iran and Israel return to their more normal levels of animosity.
By now, as WikiLeaks documents show, U.S. officials tend to view the Israeli threats as a pressure tactic to get the United States and Europe to adopt tougher measures against Iran, and to refrain from any compromise with Tehran over the nuclear issue. These intense periods of Israeli warnings about its imminent intent to bomb Iran have indeed tended to coincide with times when the international community has been debating additional sanctions on Tehran.
This latest call for war is no different.
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