Benjamin Netanyahu's 'Non-Political' Speech Targets Partisan Divide in Washington
CAPITOL HILL -- In the most polite, folksy manner possible, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington with a simple message: our policy on a nuclear-free Iran is wrong.
Alluding to the upcoming festival of Purim, Netanyahu warned Congress of a significant modern Persian threat -- an Iran that is single-minded in its goals to obtain nuclear weapons with intercontinental missile capability.
Netanyahu's speech was a textbook delivery of criticism straight out of any number of managerial manuals.
He first allayed fears of his intentions being political. He then delivered a flawless "compliment sandwich," by praising America's past support, telling a folksy on-topic allegory, delivering the criticism (including warning us of the threats of not addressing the problem), alluding to our shared religious values as the basis for cooperation, and then closing with appreciation for America's continued support.
Well scripted -- but is he right?
Stripping away all partisan rhetoric, Netanyahu's complaint against Obama's 10-year, nuclear-free plan for Iran is simple: he wants a ban on further sales of nuclear processing centrifuges and an intercontinental missile ban.
Netanyahu's point has a common-sense appeal. If the United States eliminates the development equipment and potential delivery systems, the problem resolves itself.
Netanyahu Playing His Only Political Card
While claiming his role at Congress was non-political, Netanyahu attempted to sway public and political opinion with Israel's only ally at the bargaining table with Iran.
But he was also not exactly honest with his portrayal of America's role in the nuclear deal, implying that we could unilaterally make changes to it.
America is taking the lead with the P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany (also called the E3+3) -- in negotiating with Iran on its nuclear policy.
Although America is taking the lead, there are significantly varying opinions within the P5+1 on how to deal with Iran. Russia recently completed a new military cooperation treaty with Iran, China is actively supplying Iran with both financial capital and military technology, and most of Europe is not interested in advancing Israeli foreign policy.
After Netanyahu's December tirade at the European Parliament, accusing Europe of learning nothing from the Holocaust, relations between the EU and Israel have continued to cool.
Netanyahu is faced with two options: attempt a unilateral military strike against Iran's current capabilities or significantly sway political and public opinion in the U.S.
While this speech will certainly stir up considerable partisanship, America's foreign policy is unlikely to change; there are simply too many competing interests at the bargaining table.
This is the danger associated with American foreign policy being tied down to a coalition's collective interests. We simply won't be able to please everyone, including ourselves.
Back to the Drawing Board
Within hours of the speech, Iran rejected America's proposal as "unacceptable," but promised to continue talks on a deal.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have been in negotiations in Switzerland, spending over 5-hours in conference on Tuesday.
Iran wants an immediate end to sanctions as part of any deal. The other P5+1 nations want to see progress before sanctions are completely lifted, but won't impose the additional bans Netanyahu has requested, regardless of whether or not Congress agrees with him.
European leaders, in general, are seeing the talks as exceptionally positive. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted that more has been done in 2015 than has been accomplished in the previous 10 years combined.
In America, Obama stated that Netanyahu offered "nothing new" and "no viable alternatives" to the negotiations, cementing the fact that America's next move will be largely dictated by the collective policy and demands of the P5+1.
Photo Source: AP