Lost Cause in Geneva

The big story of 2012 was the Israeli preemptive strike that didn't happen; the big story of 2014 is liable to be Saudi Arabia's preemptive nuclearization.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

When senior American officials spoke with senior Israeli officials this weekend, they insisted they weren’t stupid. We aren’t naïve, the Americans said. We know who we’re dealing with. We understand that the Iranians will try to get a lot while giving very little. But what we’re trying to do in Geneva is to create a short time frame in which the Iranians will be put to the test. During the six months in question, the Iranian nuclear program won’t advance and the sanctions regime won’t collapse. During those six months, intensive negotiations will be held, and by the end, we’ll know whether there is or isn’t a grand bargain to be had with Iran.

Therefore, there’s no reason for anxiety and no reason to panic. If Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei doesn’t supply the goods, next spring he’ll be facing an aggressive United States that will be willing to use force – if in fact there’s a need to use force. Trust us, the Americans said. We aren’t apprentices; we know what we’re doing. Our new Iranian diplomacy is calculated, measured diplomacy, which also serves Israel’s national interests.

The Americans really aren’t stupid. Therefore, they ought to know that their public explanation is nice-sounding but lame. The interim agreement taking shape in Geneva is extremely problematic. What has nevertheless caused sober, intelligent Americans to support this agreement isn’t delusion, but worry. According to the Obama administration’s in-depth analysis, the West’s position with regard to Iran isn’t anything to write home about.

You want the real truth? There is no military option. The Iranians have made too much progress, they’ve gotten too far, and there’s no way to make them not know what they already know.

You want the real truth? The centrifuges are faster than the sanctions. The economic sanctions are hurting Iran’s economy and causing problems for the regime, but they won’t make Natanz and Fordo disappear.

You want the real truth? We have to say that all options are on the table, but we also have to understand that for a long time now, there haven’t been any options and there hasn’t been any table. Going to Geneva is a miserable effort to postpone the end, so that a nuclear Iran doesn’t emerge now, on Barack Obama’s watch, but immediately afterward.

The Americans aren’t stupid, but they’re worn out. Therefore, their mood is that of Nixon going to China. They’re nurturing a genuine belief that, just as they made peace with Beijing in 1972 they’ll make peace with Tehran in 2014. They’re hoping that this historic American-Iranian reconciliation will be Obama’s international legacy, and will retroactively justify the Nobel Prize he received as a down payment four years ago.

But what the Americans haven’t taken into account is that while they are going to the new China, they are creating five or six new Taiwans: Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Israel. These countries now feel cheated, betrayed and threatened. And they are immeasurably stronger than the original Taiwan. Therefore, they will do everything in their power to thwart Obama’s journey toward Iranian President Hassan Rohani. Uncle Sam’s abandoned nephews will rise up against Uncle Sam and try to school him.

The big story of 2012 was the story of an Israeli preemptive attack, which in the end didn’t happen. Maybe this story will repeat itself in the spring or summer of 2014, and maybe it won’t. An interim agreement would make it hard for Israel to act and push it into a corner.

But the new big story of 2014 is liable to be the story of Saudi Arabia’s preemptive nuclearization. It’s not inconceivable that the first Islamic bomb in the Middle East won’t be Persian, but Arab. It’s also not inconceivable that while the American president is going to the new China, the Saudi king will be going to the real China.

It’ll be fun, my friends. The Sunnis and the Jews are boiling with anger. Therefore, they are now holding hands and launching a campaign against the Christians and Shi’ites who are closing a deal in Geneva.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, left, talks to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, during a photo opportunity prior to the start of two days of talks. Credit: AP

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