Kerry reportedly informed Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that recurring chants of “Death to America” were not helpful and that they were “pretty stupid.” The Secretary of State also claims to have frequently raised the issue of four American citizens held captive of missing in Iran.
Many critics of the Obama administration’s negotiations feel that the release of these individuals should have been a precondition for any agreement. Following the announcement of the deal, CBS reporter Major Garret accused Obama of being “content” to allow the four individuals to languish in Iran while he lauds the diplomatic accord.
These criticisms are similar in tone and intensity to the criticisms coming from the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose relations with the Obama administration have deteriorated over the course of the Iran nuclear negotiations. Netanyahu and his supporters tend to paint the administration as neglecting the special relationship between the two countries and amplifying an existential threat to the Jewish state.
Politico quotes Kerry as saying that the halt of a hostile petition against Israel was also part of nuclear negotiations, but there is no indication of concessions from Tehran on point of its commitment to the destruction of Israel. Furthermore, such claims contrast with the administration’s repeated statements that formal talks were limited to the nuclear file.
Notwithstanding Netanyahu’s staunch opposition to the deal, some other Israeli politicians are more amenable to the Obama administration’s diplomatic approach. For instance, Heritage Florida Jewish News reports that Yair Lapid, the chairman of the opposition centrist Yesh Atid Party, believes the US is willing to listen to some Israeli concerns, and that these should be focused on lobbying to improve the weakest part of the deal: the provisions for inspection of Iranian compliance.
But even Lapid is hedging his bets by considering the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure if the deal is not improved or supplemented. Meanwhile, Ephraim Inbar of the Israeli think tank Begin-Sadat Center expressed the belief that such a strike has grown more likely since the signing of the deal that leaves Iran with the ability to enrich uranium. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Israel will do anything in its power to halt Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon, and some reports suggest that the Obama administration had to actively stop Israel from launching a strike in the midst of the negotiations.
Regardless of how close the region came to such an incident, US-Israeli conflict over the possibility is clearly ramping up again, with Kerry warning that an Israeli strike would be an “enormous mistake, a huge mistake with grave consequences for Israel and for the region.”
Yet Arutz Sheva makes it clear that Israel has had little difficult in finding new potential justifications for unilateral action. For instance, it was revealed in US Senate hearings that one provision of the deal allows Iran to conduct tests in covert nuclear facilities where nuclear detonation tests are believes to have taken before.
Another provision requires the US to defend Iran against the threat of Israeli cyberattacks like the Stuxnet virus infection that was used to damage Iranian centrifuges in 2010. Provisions such as this certainly help to reiterate existing questions about the extent to which the United States is acting in accord with the interests of its primary Middle Eastern ally by pursuing the current diplomatic pathways with Iran.