Team Obama has been working overtime to dissuade Congress from slapping new economic sanctions on Iran during ongoing nuclear negotiations — which resumed in Geneva last week — because they believe new squeeze tactics might put America and Iran on a path to war.
On the contrary, not being tough enough on Iran — whether with new sanctions or at the Geneva talks — may actually propel the simmering crisis toward armed conflict despite intentions to do otherwise.
In other words, even if the so-called “P5+1” (which includes the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany) get a deal with Iran during this second (or a subsequent) round of meetings, a failure to get the right deal could result in war.
As the talks resume, there are continuing concerns about an acceptable level of uranium enrichment and blocking both of Iran’s possible pathways to the bomb — uranium and plutonium.
Worries have intensified due to a report in USA Today this week that Tehran may have an additional, undeclared nuclear site that might allow it to continue work on a nuclear program outside of any agreement.
But from the looks of it, Israel won’t take a bad deal with Iran lying down.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been briefed on the prospective agreement, calls it an “exceedingly bad” deal and has lobbied against it across the globe.
More strikingly, Britain’s Sunday Times reported this week that the Israelis and Saudis are working together in case a post-Geneva pact strike on Iran is needed to prevent the Iranians from building the bomb.
For example, due to the operational challenges (e.g., distance) facing the Israeli Defense Forces in a strike on Iran, Saudi Arabia could allow the IDF to pass through its airspace en route to Iranian nuclear targets.
Of course, once you get over the shock of Israel and Saudi Arabia — countries with less-than-warm relations — cooperating, the news isn’t particularly surprising. (Riyadh reportedly denied the news account.)
Both states have a lot at stake in the outcome of the Geneva negotiations considering the threat from a nuclear Iran to their national security; reportedly, neither party is “overjoyed” with how the Geneva talks are progressing.
The undoubtedly calculated revelation from the Sunday Times’ anonymous “diplomatic source” also puts the P5+1 and Iran on notice that a deal that fails to arrest Iran’s nuclear weapons program comprehensively may mean that war might still be in the cards despite their efforts.
While it’s long been questioned whether Team Obama really has “all options on the table” to prevent Iran from going nuclear — including a U.S. military strike — Team Netanyahu clearly still does.
Observers are nervous that Washington is planning to cut a “feel-good” deal with Tehran, allowing for some diplomatic happy dancing, a declaration of “peace in our time!” and title to a long-elusive foreign policy victory.
But while the White House insists a preliminary, short-term deal with Iran — one that might lead to a more comprehensive, long-term deal later on — will avoid an undesirable war, in fact that may not be the case at all.