mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
US & Iran Warm Up But Not Everyone Is Happy About It

On the eve of the new Iranian President’s first visit to the United States, the media is full of hopeful stories about a diplomatic ending to the nuclear disagreement. The New York Times reports that President Obama sent Hassan Rouhani a letter promising relief from sanctions if Iran would “cooperate with the international community, keep your commitments and remove ambiguities.” “Iran’s leaders,” the story continues, “have decided to gamble on forging a swift agreement over their nuclear program with the goal of ending crippling sanctions.”

Rouhani responded publicly with an op-ed in the Washington Post today: “I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran’s recent election. I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue.”

“Under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever,” he told NBC news.

Elsewhere the mood is equally upbeat. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama may extend a hand to Rouhani when both attend the UN General Assembly next week. Back in Iran, as a sign of goodwill, the government released 11 political prisoners.

But not everyone is pleased. “There is no more time to hold negotiations,” an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “If the Iranians continue to run, in another half a year they will have bomb capability.” “One must not be fooled by the Iranian president’s fraudulent words,” reads a statement issued by Netanyahu’s office. “The Iranians are spinning in the media so that the centrifuges can keep on spinning.”

The Saudis, like the Israelis, are uncomfortable with Washington’s newfound friendliness toward Iran. To them, President Obama seems to be putting America’s relationship with the Kingdom at risk in favor of reaching out to Tehran. As with Egypt and Syria, Washington and Riyadh see Middle Eastern crises through different lenses. The Saudis are good at diplomacy and securing their interests in their neighborhood; if they come to suspect that an American deal with Iran isn’t satisfactory, we might find some pushback from Saudi Arabia on other issues in the Middle East—in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere.

Features Icon
show comments
  • wigwag

    What’s there to worry about? After all, given his performance on Syria and, before that, Libya we know that President Obama is one shrewd strategist. Lets not forget that the West has picked one tough cookie as its lead negotiator with Iran. Can’t you just see the Iranians quaking in their boots at the prospect of facing Lady Ashton across the negotiating table?

    And let’s not forget that Obama and Baroness Ashton are backed up by the A-team. We have Secretary of Defense Hagel who showed his moxie at his Senate confirmation hearings and Secretary of State Kerry who has generously agreed to divert a small portion of his incredibly valuable time away from the critical Israel-Palestine peace talks and towards stripping Iran of its nuclear weapons ambitions.

    Those Israelis and Saudis do nothing but kvetch. What do they have to worry about? Can’t they see Obama is putting his best people to work on this problem?

    Isn’t it obvious that our problems with Iran are over? And after all, now that his Sunni extremist friends in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have fallen on hard times, shouldn’t President Obama be entitled to forge some new friendships with Shia extremists?

    It’s only fair, isn’t it?

    • bpuharic

      Ah, one shrewd strategist. Perhaps we should engage in ‘nation building’ and invade, like our huge success in Iraq.After all, nothing could go wrong there

  • lukelea

    Have the Mullahs changed? That is the question.

    • Corlyss

      Of course they haven’t. And if one of them tried, the IRGC would dispatch him within hours.

  • bpuharic

    Few countries have as deep a hatred of the US than Saudi Arabia which supplied fifteen of the 19 9/11 hijackers and continues to this day to describe ‘kurfrs’ as worthy of death. Why we would even listen to them is anyone’s guess

    As to Israel, the US is the US. Our foreign policy is not based on the book of Revelation, but on our own interests, no matter what the apocalyptic fundies in the Tea Party movement think.

    It’s too early to say if this ‘opening’ is real or not. But we’d be foolish to pass it up.

    • Clayton Holbrook

      The Saudis “supplied” 9/11 hijackers? Really? Does that mean the US “supplied” Timothy McVeigh and Aaron Alexis? Perhaps loosen up the tin foil hat a bit. Saudi Arabia represents an ally with common interests against an ill-willed Iran.

      • bpuharic

        Ever hear of Wahabism? Perhaps if you actually studied what the Saudis preached. In case you’ve forgotten, they, unlike we, are a theocracy

        You must live in TX.

        Saudi Arabia is, at best a strategic partner. However, unlike you, I see theocracies for what they are. ANd the Saudis are our enemy.

        • Clayton Holbrook

          You mean Wahhabism?

        • Clayton Holbrook

          “Why we would even listen to them is anyone’s guess”

          “Saudi Arabia is, at best a strategic partner.”


          • bpuharic

            If only you knew what your were talking about


          • Jack Klompus

            Recess bell rang. Have the teacher’s aid pin your mittens to your sleeves and get back to class while special ed still has its funding.

        • Tom

          And Iran isn’t all of those things, except more so?
          Look, I’d love to tell the Saudis that they could go hang themselves, for all we care.
          However, I don’t think Iran is willing to ally with us at any point in the future, unlike the Saudis.

          • bpuharic

            No, Iran isn’t. Its survival is at stake. Big difference

            And the Saudis aren’t our allies.

          • Tom

            Fine. People who share with us a common interest in opposing Iran.
            And you usually at least give “strategic partners” a hearing.

          • Jack Klompus

            Are you actually trying to have an intelligent dialogue with that idiot?

          • Tom

            Not for his sake, but for the sake of others.

  • wigwag

    The timing of the Iranian overture is interesting. My guess is that after watching Obama’s bungling performance in Libya, Egypt and Syria, the Iranians concluded that Obama is a Rube who could easily be played. They are using their new, “pretend moderate” president to lure Obama to the negotiating table where they are sure that they can make a great deal for themselves. After all, the Russians made Obama look like a fool; the Iranians are surely convinced that they can too.

    Now that they can see (like everyone else in the world) that Obama is not only a coward but an incompetent one at that, negotiating with him probably seems like a great idea. The Iranians must realize that with Lady Ashton cheering him on, Obama can be counted on to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Another possibility is that the sanctions imposed on Iran (mostly by the U.S. Congress with Obama being dragged along reluctantly), are becoming so damaging to the Iranian economy that the Iranians feel compelled to compromise. If this happens to be the case, then the time has come to ramp up sanctions even more harshly. Relenting when you have your opponent just where you want him is a serious mistake only made by fools.

    But we shouldn’t forget what the American President is.

  • Corlyss

    Geez Louise! Gullibility abounds.
    Note to WRM munchkins: we’s bein’ played by experts.
    Our current administration is simply not up to dealing with such sophisticates as Putin and Khamenei.

  • wigwag

    Obama is making a huge error in judgement by antagonizing the Saudis. You don’t have to like them to realize that our interests are inextricably linked to Saudi interests. The Saudis can cause the United States all sorts of grief if they are so inclined.

    To make matters worse for Obama and his keystone cops, Prince Bandar is now formulating Saudi strategy and Bandar is far smarter, wily and more experienced than the American Nitwit-in-Chief.

    To paraphrase Professor Mead, Bandar will beat Obama like a red-headed stepchild; he will play him like a fiddle; he will pound him like a big brass drum. The Saudi Prince will dance rings around his arrogant, professorial opponent. It will be like watching the Harlem Globetrotters go up against the junior squad from Miss Porter’s School; like watching Harvard play Texas A&M, like watching Bambi meet Godzilla — or Bill Clinton run against Bob Dole.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service