Iran, Israel and the Failure to Speak Softly

Last Sunday Israeli President Shimon Peres told CNN that he was willing to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. "The purpose is to convert enemies into friends," Peres said. Today Iranian spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham dismissed Peres' offer and said Tehran would never recognize Israel or change its stance. Peres' offer was probably just a ploy -- he knew Iran would dismiss it and that its dismissal would provide further evidence to Israelis and also provide ammunition to American Jews who are currently trying to push new sanctions against Iran through the Senate that the Iranians will never give up their nuclear ambitions. Peres was probably right.

From USA Today:

"The national security of the United States is stronger under this agreement than it was the day before" and so is Israel's and Saudi Arabia's, Kerry told the House Foreign Relations Committee.

I am not a member of, nor do I support, the Israeli lobby in Washington, but Iran's flat refusal to recognize Israel or "change its stance" disappoints all of us who hope for some sort of peace in the Middle East and some accommodation between the countries existing there. The basic question remains: Will Iran ever give up its nuclear ambitions, and if it does not, what hope is there for a peaceful future in the area?

Nineteen years ago on October 19, 1994, the New York Times wrote:

President Clinton approved a plan today to arrange more than $4 billion in energy aid to North Korea during the next decade in return for a commitment from the country's hard-line Communist leadership to freeze and gradually dismantle its nuclear weapons development program.

Under Clinton's accord, "North Korea would agree to allow full and continuous inspections of its existing nuclear sites, freeze and then later take apart some of its most important nuclear plants and ship out of the country fuel rods that should be covered into fuel for weapons." That sounds very much like the terms of the agreement reached in Geneva.

Twenty years later we know what's happened in Korea. Last year it launched a missile that landed in the sea east of Japan. The question that Israeli supporters and their friends in Congress are asking is who can guarantee that this won't happen in the Middle East. Afkham's words today make it harder than ever to convince Americans that the Geneva accord is in the best interests of the U.S. or the Middle East.

It was Teddy Roosevelt who said "Walk softly and carry a big stick." Iran, through Afkham, was shouting loudly and she was not confirming Iran's willingness to give up its "big stick" -- a full fledged nuclear arsenal.