In fact, Fortune reported on the story by pointing out that the accusations are likely credible, but also that they were the product of the US snooping on Israel, as well. The mutual distrust and antagonistic behaviors evidenced by this partly illustrate how contentious the international handling of Iran’s nuclear program is.
By some accounts, Israel is aggressively working against the Obama administration’s Iran policy not only because a nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to the Jewish state but also because of fears over broader rapprochement between Iran and the United States, which would either restrain Israel’s ability to react to threats coming from Tehran, or else further damage the special relationship between the US and Israel.
Worries about this rapprochement are also drivers of other parties’ opposition to the Obama administration. The government of France, the US Congress, and others have expressed concerns that developing a closer relationship with Tehran would only enable some of the regime’s dictatorial and destabilizing activities in its own country and the broader region.
And of course these fears merely elaborate upon the trends that have already been observed in places where Iran’s influence reaches and is not being effectively confronted. For instance, an article in Real Clear Politics on Tuesday highlighted how Iran’s continued ascendancy might impact the people of Syria, and how the Obama administration’s policies are contributing to this outcome.
The author speaks of “America’s strategic shift” toward cooperating with Iran in hopes of mutually defeating Sunni militants, and says that because of it, “The U.S. is vetting, training and equipping moderate rebels to enter Syria, who will be promptly barrel-bombed by the Assad regime, which America has no intention of preventing… It is a policy so impractical, so careless of consequences, that it is immoral.”
Of course, the Obama administration’s defenders justify looking the other way on such harmful and destabilizing Iranian activities by suggesting that the alternative to cooperation with Iran is even worse. Generally, those who advance this narrative assume that the only alternative is war. This view was espoused anew in an editorial in the National Interest on Tuesday, which claimed that any US military strikes on the Islamic Republic of Iran would put the US on a “permanent war footing” with respect to the country.
But the article drew this conclusion in part by rejecting the notion that limited military engagement with Iran could lead to regime change – a point that many of the most committed opponents of the Iranian regime would be quick to contradict. On Monday, an article in Bloomberg View claimed that most Iranians are too fearful to take to the streets against their repressive government, but suggested that the regime is on thin ice and that, “deep down, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei must suspect that millions of his own people quietly loathe him.”
This is especially true of those Iranians who are members of ethnic, religious, and political groups deemed dangerous by the regime and made subject to repression that generates regular headlines among human rights groups. Among the latest of these, the Human Rights Activists News Agency indicates that 12 members of the Erfane Halgheh religious movement were recently sentenced to between one and five years in prison each, thus joining 16 of their fellow worshippers who were similarly sentenced by the Islamic Republic on vague religious charges of blasphemy.
For some commentators, stories like these point to festering popular animosity that needs only a small amount of external support in order to lead to regime change.
But regardless of how plausible it is that such revolt would be the consequence of American military strikes against Iran, defenders of the Obama administration’s rapprochement have not made it clear why war is the only likely alternative to a permissive nuclear agreement. Tuesday’s National Interest article raises the question of whether war would be inevitable if nuclear talks failed, but it does not actually resolve this question before going on to assume the affirmative answer.
Of course, many of the Obama administration’s detractors have emphasized that the institution of truly punishing economic sanctions is a viable alternative to military conflict. The administration is averse to this solution, the vast majority of the US Congress is strongly in favor of it, and the international climate on this issue remains somewhat unclear.
Throughout the period of nuclear negotiations, critics of those talks have expressed concern that the prospect of rapprochement was undermining international support for existing economic sanctions and encouraging European businesses to look eagerly toward opening up Iranian markets. But on Tuesday Reuters indicated that there was still strong European will for the enforcement of sanctions constraining Iran’s nuclear work.
Although the European Union’s second highest court had overturned them, the EU is set to re-impose sanctions on some 40 Iranian shipping companies associated with Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, which has been accused of supporting nuclear proliferation.
In spite of this, worries persist that some in the West will push back against sanctions or risk violating them in hopes of becoming early adopters of the Iranian market. But there are also reasons to question whether the opening of that market would actually be in the interests of the US and its allies. An article at WatchDog.org raised one such question on Tuesday when it suggested that a flood of Iranian oil following the signing of a nuclear deal could actually undermine the existing US oil boom and lead to a 10 dollar drop in the price of the commodity, as well as to indirect negative effects on US steel and other industries.
These are only some of the peripheral issues that are related to the Iran nuclear talks and go beyond the central issue of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear capacity. As such, they are only some of the issues contributing to dramatically different political calculations by the US and Israel, and by other groups that are at odds over relevant policies.