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The Iranian Agreement: A Possible Realignment of Middle East Politics

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The Geneva agreement between Iran and the group of six is already getting the usual title of "historic" but only time will tell how "historic" it really is.

Verification will be the key, and talking about that reminds those who want to be reminded that in 1994 another "historic" agreement was signed with North Korea, and years later, the rogue regime tested an atomic device.

Iran is another rogue regime, though under President Rouhani it is a smiling rogue regime; but not under the Supreme Leader Kamenei, who just days ago referred to Israel and Zionism in Der Sturmer, Nazi terms. Even this obnoxious statement did not stop the U.S. under a liberal democrat president from signing the agreement. So, is it Rouhani vs. Kamenei? A new Iran as opposed to the old one?

This blog doubts it, and it is my opinion that it is not even a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation but rather another expression of the old bazaar politics; the Iranian regime forte whereby the Iranian people get the truth from the leadership, whereas the world press (the New York Times notably) as well as Western leaders get their smiling stuff.

Surely in Israel they tend to believe Kamenei and not Rouhani. There, Prime Minister Netanyahu talks again about an historic mistake, a much more dangerous world from now on, and Israel's freedom of action in the face of this agreement.

President Peres, on the other hand, speaks about verification, and while this is a dissenting voice, it is of little significance, as the octogenarian statesman lacks real political clout. Netanyahu seems to be the politician who is most associated with the strongest opposition to the Geneva deal, so, in the short term, he may carry with him the impression of failure, since his worldwide campaign against the agreement has not produced the desired results.

But, in fairness to Netanyahu, he never related to the Iranian nuclear program and its risks to Israel as a tactical matter, or even as a PR exercise, though some of his public appearances had a tinge of theatrics attached to them.

He and his followers in Israel, and in the pro-Israel community abroad, mainly in the U.S., relate to this issue, and rightly so, as an existential one. So, from his perspective the struggle against Geneva is on, and the agreement will serve as another catalyst to continue the campaign, be it over world public opinion, or over American lawmakers minds.

Still, a humble piece of advice from this blog: do what seems to have worked, and refrain from doing what has not worked. The message of doom has failed, but a sustained campaign focused on the need to apply a tight regime of verification can and hopefully still works.

That is to say, the campaign against any diplomatic solution is a non-starter, but a specific reference to elements of the agreement which need to be strictly scrutinized is of the essence.

Netanyahu, usually a PR wizard, can still argue that it was his stiff attitude to the nuclear program that ignited the global imposition of sanctions in the first place, and Iran's subsequent readiness to enter talks and sign an agreement which it objected to until now. The problem for Netanyahu though is that he seems to continue to refer to the agreement in almost apocalyptic rather than pragmatic terms.

Netanyahu has, at least, one very good card to be played, and that is the almost universal Arab opposition to the agreement. Abdallah Al-Askar, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee
of the Shura council (the Consultative body of the Saudi regime), spoke in very harsh terms against the agreement and did not hesitate to use his country's trump card: the fact that the agreement is going to open a nuclear arms race in the Middle East rather than ending it. Other Arab reactions indicate a similar sentiment, though the United Arab Emirates has endorsed the agreement.

Arab reactions should ring a bell in the White House, where any sober assessment of the situation has to refer to the novice element of Middle East politics, and this is the public identity of positions between Israel and most of the Arab world with regard to such a crucial issue. If the Israelis and so many Arabs agree on something, can they really be wrong?

Or, maybe it is of not much consequence to the Obama administration, which is resorting to what may be called neo-isolationism. A more cynical view of American policy is that the Israelis, Saudis and others are paying the price for the collapse of Obamacare... the domestic agenda is what matters, and Iran? Syria? Well, let the parties directly concerned deal with it on their own.

This is exactly where Israel under Netanyahu faces the challenge of striving to increase cooperation with those Arabs who feel stabbed in the back by the emerging American-Iranian axis. The way to do it is not to announce new settlements, and not necessarily abandoning the talks with the Palestinians, which will not progress for a plethora of reasons. Judging by past experience, Saudi Arabia as well as other Arab countries will publicly deny any complicity with Israel's policy and plans, but shared interests and concerns, perhaps even major fears, have their own way of expressing themselves.

A realignment of Middle East politics? That remains to be seen, but it is more likely than before with the signing of the agreement, and one with potential effects that could go beyond the immediate Iranian connection.