Sunday, October 6, 2013

Netanyahu's Misguided Attack Against Iran - One Step Back for Nuclear Talks?

U.S.-Iran relations in recent weeks have been at their highest point in probably the last 4 decades, leaving many optimistic about continuing progress in nuclear talks. Iranian President Rouhani and President Obama have had the first President-to-President talks in years, and eagerness from Rouhani on improving Iran's relationship with the western world seems genuine and refreshing, compared to the bellicosity and harsh words former President Ahmadinejad was know for. But despite these improvements, U.S. ally and stalwart in the Middle East, Israel, has not been convinced. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has remained steadfast in his disapproval and leeriness of Iranian intentions, continuously referring to Rouhani as "a wolf in sheep's clothing." Although it has not appeared to affect talks between Iran and the U.S., it is not guaranteed that it won't in the future.

In possibly the worst move in recent weeks, Netanyahu gave an interview to the Persian arm of the BBC news channel on Thursday night regarding Iran, drawing serious ire from not the Iranian government, but this time the Iranian public. Ironically, Netanyahu's appeal to the Iranian public to stand up against their government backfired entirely; Netanyahu ignorantly referenced the Iranian people's inability to listen to western music or to wear denim jeans, while also repeatedly discrediting the most recent presidential election and saying the Iranian public "deserved better."

Obviously, this interview was not warmly received by the intended recipients. Iranian youth took to twitter and other social media outlets ridiculing Netanyahu, showing pictures of their jeans, iPods, and other western cultural items. Furthermore, Netanyahu referenced 2009 antigovernment protests - specifically a women who's death was caught on camera and ignited sympathy and anger from around the world - without seeming to have recalled (or cared) that the women who had died was in fact wearing jeans in the video. The question all of this leaves is whether Netanyahu had ulterior motives in giving the interview, something perhaps unseen by someone like myself or the countless other individuals who saw it, or whether he truly was so in the dark on contemporary Iranian culture that he could make such inaccurate comments.

Given that Israel is significantly closer in proximity to Iran, and that the two have experienced an arguably worse relationship over the years than the U.S. has, it is understandable that Netanyahu has been unmoved by what others would see as optimistic progress in the recent nuclear talks. And, in defense of Netanyahu, the talks as of yet have been preliminary, and it will be important to see President Rouhani step up to the plate and begin implementing serious changes in the way Iran runs its nuclear program. Until then, talk is just talk, and it won't be the first time promising nuclear attacks have failed. However, there is serious reason to believe Rouhani is committed to changes - due to crippling economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European countries, Iran's economy is in serious trouble, and improving relations with the western world could over time substantially mitigate this. And Netanyahu's stubbornness when it comes to Iran, while not hurting nuclear talks yet, is certainly not helping them. Expressing concern and raising legitimate qualms is a reasonable thing for a country in Israel's position to do; publicly making inaccurate, disparaging remarks is not. It is in the best interest of Israel, and the United States, that Netanyahu begin to trust the talks more and join the nuclear talks as a productive state, and begin helping move things along more.

No comments:

Post a Comment