In light of the actual content of Netanyahu’s speech, this criticism does not appear to be accurate. Approximately the first half of that speech was committed to discussing the general character of the Iranian regime and a variety of its activities beyond its own borders.
Netanyahu evoked the observations of various foreign policy analysts who have concluded that Iran’s influence in other Middle Eastern countries is aimed in large part at encircling its regional adversaries. He described Israel as being threatened by “three tentacles of terror” in the form of Iranian forces in Gaza, Lebanon, and the Golan Heights.
He also parroted the claims of Iranian officials who say that Tehran now controls four Arab capitals – Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, and Sanaa – which it is using to vie with Sunni militants in a sectarian struggle between two brands of militant Islam. Such an interpretation of Islam, Netanyahu noted, is fundamental to the Iranian regime, meaning that it “will always be an enemy of America.”
These observations are all in keeping with the conventional threats that Quartz sees as emanating from the Islamic Republic, although Netanyahu did also emphasize that militant Islam backed up by a nuclear weapon is the greatest threat to global stability today, and one that threatens to set off an arms race throughout the Middle East.
In agreement with this assessment, some analysts have warned that Iran’s adversaries, chiefly Saudi Arabia would not sit back and wait for the conclusion of a bad nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 before determining that it is in Riyadh’s interest to attempt to match Tehran’s unchecked nuclear advancements.
More generally speaking, opponents of the Obama administration’s approach to the issue observe that seemingly conciliatory outreach to the Islamic Republic has been alienating America’s established allies in the region. This is certainly something that the administration is concerned about, as evidenced by the fact that, according to Reuters, Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting Riyadh this week in an attempt to convince the Saudis that the emerging nuclear deal does not comprise their country’s interests.
The article quotes one Gulf region diplomat as saying, “The Saudis fear Obama will give the Iranians a deal whatever the cost because it is important for his legacy, and that Iran will get a certain regional status in exchange for an agreement.” Obama has explicitly stated that he envisions Iran becoming a “very successful regional power” as a result of his policies.
This is part of the grounds for what The Tower identifies as a rising tide of doubts among analysts and experts regarding the long-term effects of Obama’s strategy. The site points out that some have described that strategy as an “antisurge” in that it seeks to partner with the Shiite extremists in Tehran against comparable Sunni extremists, as opposed to partnering with moderates against extremists, full stop.
Others have expressed concern that the US is forming a de facto partnership with Iran, without making any effort to bring the regime into line with the values of the international community. Indeed, many analysts and human rights advocates have criticized the administration throughout the negotiating process for refusing to tie sanctions relief to broader expectations of reform within the Iranian government.
Furthermore, a lack of domestic reform translates to the continuation of destabilizing foreign policies, which are also not being challenged by the US, according to The Week. A recent series of offenses against the Islamic State in Iraq have deepened Iranian involvement in that conflict, to the exclusion of US influence over Baghdad, which has increasingly affiliated itself with Shiite militias while driving Sunnis out of public life.
Naturally, many attribute this increase in sectarianism to the influence of the staunchly Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran, which has similarly backed Shiite takeovers and militia movements in Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere.
There are definite concerns about the US failing to address this issue and tacitly encouraging Iran’s encroachments against Sunni-majority countries in the region. But the failure to challenge this influence also affects Israel and the special relationship that it has enjoyed with the US, to the supposed advantage of both nations.
Over the weekend, according to The Blaze, the Obama administration was forced to deny a report in Israeli media claiming that the Obama administration had thwarted a planned Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets as they flew over Iraq. Whether true or false, the story does appear to point to outright tensions between the traditionally close allies, either in the form of a military threat or in the form of media reporting that reflects perceptions of the Obama administration’s opposition to Israeli interests.