THE BLOG

Time to Stop the Circus and Focus on Iran

02/07/2015 10:31 am ET | Updated Apr 09, 2015

I have recently written about the enormously high stakes involved in getting the Iran nuclear issue right. There is a broad consensus on this and on the dangers of a nuclear armed Iran. Yet, as the clock winds down on negotiations between Iran and the P-5+1, important differences in just how to effectively accomplish the goal have emerged.

These differences are not about whether diplomacy is the best way to resolve the issue -- all agree it is.

It is not surprising that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assesses the risks to Israel, the region and, ultimately, the world through a different lens than President Obama and some other world leaders.

Israel is directly in the cross-hairs of Iranian ambitions for regional domination, as are the Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan and others. President Obama and many among the American people are rightly wary of entangling the U.S. in yet another Middle East war and European leaders are focused on their faltering economies, which would benefit from the reopening of full trade with Iran.

This is precisely the moment when there should be frank, direct and open discussion of the different perspectives.

Now is exactly the time when Israel's leader should be having those discussions with all who have a say in shaping policy outcomes on this issue, including the U.S. Congress. And the views of America's closest ally in the Middle East should be heard, so policymakers and the American people will have the benefit of hearing directly from Netanyahu how he sees what is at stake and what he believes is the best way to reach an agreement with Iran that will ensure the long term safety of Israel, the region and the world.

Yet, this point has been nearly obliterated by the waves of controversy surrounding the invitation to the prime minister to address Congress. I have called it a tragedy of unintended consequences -- and it is.

Instead of staying laser-focused on the very real, very complex and very dangerous consequences of the outcome of the negotiations with Iran, the public discourse is now being hijacked by politics.

It is being dominated by mocking comedians, moaning pundits and manipulating politicians all talking about who is insulting whom, who will and who won't be in the chamber for the speech, who may or may not be punished for not showing up, who will get an electoral advantage from the appearance, and who won't.

These are absolutely the wrong questions, and this is absolutely the wrong time to be raising them.

As time grows shorter, there needs to be a pause in the uproar to enable everyone involved to find the way to get back to talking about what really counts -- is Iran ready to give up its nuclear plans or must the West revisit its whole approach?

The venue for the discussions on this weighty question matters much less than actually having the conversation -- and having it sooner rather than later. Now is a time to recalibrate, restart and find a new platform and new timing to take away the distractions.