Republicans see Iran in their sights

The Iran nuclear deal is within grasp but those tasked with finalizing it better hurry in order to avoid its unravelling at the trigger happy hands within the victorious Republican party which now holds both houses of Congress.   

 The Republican routing of the Democrats in the US mid-terms has made one thing very clear. Iran had better be serious and transparent about getting a deal on its nuclear ambitions within the next three weeks.

In the lead up to, and brief post election analysis key Republicans have not lost their taste for anything but a ratcheting up of the Iran sanctions.

Those who are often in the ‘nut job‘ aisle such as Ted Cruz - the junior Senator from Texas - are now part of the Congress majority and for anyone who prefers to ask the questions before firing, that’s a world-wide concern.

Cruz earlier this year called for President Obama to end talks with Iran and instead arm Israel with bunker busting bombs so it could eliminate the Iranian nuclear facilities.

On so many levels this is ignorant and dangerous - ‘qualities’ Cruz displays in abundance.

In this case he appears genuinely ignorant of the fact that Israel could never and would never bomb Iran.

It was all bluster.

The consequences of such action in the volatile Middle East would force Iran to fast track its programme to actually develop a weapons capability and at the same time fuel a nuclear arms race in the region.

Cruz is also conveniently amnesic about the fact that Iran which does not possess nuclear weapons, is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel, on whose behalf he and many of his colleagues lambast Iran, has hundreds of nuclear weapons and is not a member of the NPT.  

Israel tried valiantly to goad Obama into bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, but found to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chagrin that in the world of grown ups where there is room for negotiation it is the preferred option.

And so the United States, Russia, the UK, France, China and Germany (known as the P5+1) aided by the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, got down to business with Iran.

Sure their deadlines have been extended but that is because there is genuine optimism for reaching a deal which could prevent another disaster in the region.

Now the Republicans have both Houses under their control the urgency is on to get this deal finalised because the Republicans, along with a number of Democrats favour even more strict sanctions and there is already (Democrat sponsored) legislation in the Congress to effect that if a suitable deal is not reached. 

The hardliners have the unfortunate moniker of “sanction mongers” and they’d like nothing more than crushing one of Obama’s few potential foreign policy wins.

The sanctions imposed on Iran to force it to open up to inspection of its nuclear programme are unprecedented and they are clearly hurting the country. 

That’s the stick.

So far, as Obama told his post mid-term press conference, Iran has pledged that it is not developing nuclear weapons, it has abided by the interim rules of the negotiations and has reduced its stockpile of enriched materials.

If Iran is permitted an avenue to show the world that it is only interested in peaceful nuclear energy needs then this could be the most important step in ending a long history of mutual distrust particularly between Iran and the US.

The sanctions would be eased. That’s the carrot.

The test therefore is to prevent hot heads like Cruz getting anywhere near the game.

In his speech at the beginning of the Iranian New Year in March Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei softened his position in favour of the nuclear talks and declared (again) that Iran’s only demand was recognition of its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. As Iranian journalist and dissident Akbar Ganji noted in Foreign Affairs there was no ranting about world arrogance or the US as an absolute enemy.

In this theatre that is massive progress, but it needs to be reciprocated because as Khamenei also made clear, “If Iran was determined to have nuclear weapons, America could not prevent it in any way. We do not want to make nuclear weapons. Not because America is upset over this, but because it’s our own belief”.

And so the nuclear ball is now actually in all their courts and the way they play it affects us all.

The P5+1 wants a deal.

The White House wants a deal.

Israel needs a deal to avoid another war with its neighbours.

Even the Republicans (whether they all know it or not) need a deal for future foreign policy kudos.

The world needs this deal because Iran is a critical power in the Middle East and it would be much more efficient for it to be, amongst other things, openly engaged in the battle against ISIS.

(Yes I know how the tentacles of support for Hizbollah, Assad, etc work but this is not a thesis on all of that because once you start, then there is truly no finish...Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Lebanon, Shi’a/Sunni, the enemy of my enemy...etc, etc, et...c).

It would however be informative for Cruz & Co to take a closer look at what is actually going on inside Israeli politics.

First of all Netanyahu, a man pathologically obsessed with his own political power to the absolute detriment of any peace process now bears no resemblance to Time Magazine’s 2012 “King Bibi’. His political future is sliding out the Knesset door on a torrent of unpopularity (even worse than Obama’s and despite destroying Gaza) and his Likud party now holds only 18 seats in the 120 seat parliament.

Second, Israel’s voracious and illegal expansion of its occupation of Palestinian lands and its obscene flipping the bird at its most generous American patron is increasingly obvious and bizarre to the rest of the world. This seriously undermines American foreign policy standing.  

So, with a new order in Washington soon reporting for duty, it is now incumbent on those tasked with the Iran deal to make a final push in Vienna later this week, and then meet their self imposed November 24 deadline for a comprehensive deal.

A successful deal must be a transparent deal and while it will be denounced by Israel and many others regardless, it is what the world needs.

Obama made it very clear in his latest press conference that if a deal is reached he will do everything in his power to suspend levels of sanctions without a Congressional vote.

Because the alternative is what?

Bombing Iran or an Iranian bomb? Or perhaps both.

Either spells disaster for anyone but the military industrial complex and surely their blood soaked profits from the Middle East are already repulsively high.