Despite American denials to the contrary (as I wrote last week), the US is indeed keeping Israel out of the loop on its talks with Iran – although the confirmation came via the EU, as Honest Reporting reports:
But European officials say that the Israeli reports, while overblown, are not entirely based on fiction. One recalled a recent call from Wendy Sherman, the No. 3 State Department official and lead American negotiator with Iran, saying she had cautioned against telling the Israelis too much because the details could be twisted to undermine a deal
The Times of Israel adds:
In extraordinary admissions that reflect increasingly strained ties between the US and Israel, the White House and State Department said they were not sharing everything from the negotiations with the Israelis and complained that Israeli officials had misrepresented what they had been told in the past.
Meanwhile, senior US officials privately blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself for “changing the dynamic” of previously robust information-sharing by politicizing it.
“The United States is not going to be in a position of negotiating this agreement in public, particularly when we see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States,” Earnest said, when asked whether the US was limiting the amount of information it shared with Israel about the talks.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki went further, confirming that one of the steps the administration takes to ensure that “classified negotiating details stay behind closed doors” is to withhold them from Israel. She also directly blamed Israel for mischaracterizing the talks.
“I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks,” she said. “There’s a selective sharing of information.”
This, they said, had led to politically motivated leaks from Israeli officials and made it impossible to continue to share all details of the talks, particularly as Netanyahu has not backed down on his vow to argue against a nuclear deal when he speaks to Congress.
So the Americans are only giving Israel some of the information, and then they complain when Israel is “cherry-picking” the details. Did it not occur to them that if they would only keep Israel fully up to date there would be no need for cherry-picking any details.
The entire spat could be summed up thus: The Americans won’t tell the Israelis what deal they are planning to sign with Iran for fear that Israel will undermine it because they know in their hearts that the deal is in essence a capitulation to Iran; Israel in desperation then publicizes whatever crumbs of information it can get hold of in order to bring it to public attention and prevent this dangerous turn of events. The Americans are furious that Israel has found a way round the unofficial boycott so they twist the report and claim that it is in fact Israel twisting the reports.
Once again, the Obama regime shows that it operates on a level at which high school girls would be embarrassed.
Beyond the petty politicking by the Obama regime against Netanyahu, Obama’s inordinate rush to sign a deal, any deal, with Iran backfiring as its Arab allies are also expressing deep concern about the emerging American deal with Iran. (And I stress that its’ an American deal, not a deal with the p5+1 as it was originally intended):
Arab nations have joined Israel in expressing concern over the emerging details of a US-led international nuclear deal with Iran, indicating in private talks with US officials that they are worried about the apparent terms of the agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
Though Arab officials have been careful not to side with Israel in their stated positions, their worries over the possibility of a nuclear-armed Tehran are in fact similar to those of Jerusalem, and their attitudes towards the current state of nuclear talks between Tehran and Western powers are similarly pessimistic, according to the report.
Leaders of Sunni states such as Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia fear a bad deal with Tehran would allow it, with the removal of sanctions, to become a nuclear threshold state, the WSJ reported. They say it could also lead to a nuclear arms race in the region.
“At this stage, we prefer a collapse of the diplomatic process to a bad deal,” an official from an unnamed Arab nation told the paper.
You would think that such publicly expressed concerns by Arab nations about Obama’s rush to a deal would give him pause. But you would be wrong.
Moreover, Israel’s disagreement with the United States concerns not only Iran’s nuclear program, but more importantly and more immediately threatening, Washington’s weakness is encouraging Iran in its malign role in Syria. Tony Badran writes in the Lebanese NOW website about “the weakness of the wait-and-see approach“:
In addition to all of the other issues, Obama and Netanyahu entertain contradictory views of Iran’s role in region, and Syria stands at the heart of their disagreement. Whereas Obama is comfortable with the rise of Iranian power in Syria, Netanyahu and, to be sure, the Israeli security elite are deeply discomfited by it.
Until now, Israeli policy in Syria has been, as one former official put it, “to wait and see” — to stand back and respond to any breach at the border, but not to intervene directly in the course of the war, even as Israeli activity in Syria has targeted Iranian assets exclusively. For all the talk about the supposedly impeding threat of the Islamic State (ISIS), the January strike against the Iranian convoy and the current Iranian-led drive in southern Syria have emphasized the fact that the strategic and present threat comes, first and foremost, from Iran.
The Iranian determination to push into southern Syria reveals the weakness of the “wait and see” approach. Even if Israel desired to stay out of the Syrian war, the Iranians, seeing a green light from Washington, have ideas of their own. These dynamics are pushing Israel to reconsider its options.
… The White House wants everyone focused on ISIS. Its policy is predicated on cooperating with Iran and accommodating its interests.
The White House has made no secret of its opposition to any targeting of the Assad regime. President Obama even sent a letter to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reassuring him that America and its coalition allies would not touch Assad. What’s more, Israel sees that Obama has recognized Iranian spheres of influence in the region. And since the Iranian plan to set up a military presence on the Golan has been brought to light, there’s not been even a statement by the US administration declaring Tehran’s actions unacceptable.
The fact is, US policy in Syria runs counter to Israel’s national security interests.
Perhaps nothing drives this home more than the comments of an unnamed senior US military official earlier this week. The official revealed that as the administration deliberates equipping some Syrian rebels to help in the campaign against ISIS, it is worried that any move by those rebels against Assad would result in Iran’s Iraqi assets targeting US soldiers in that country. “You cross a red line in Syria, you start to infringe on what Iran sees as its long-term interest and those Shia militias could turn in the other direction,” the official said.
This remarkable respect for Iranian interests in Syria leads to very disturbing questions. Do principles that apply to the Syrian rebels also extend to Israel? Would Netanyahu be wrong to assume that Obama would consider any Israeli action that crosses Iran’s red lines in Syria as a reckless endangerment of US soldiers? After all, the White House has made clear that it regards Israeli support for congressional sanctions on Iran as an effort to goad the US into war with Iran. Would it be a stretch, then, for Israel to assume that Obama would similarly regard any Israeli military action against Iran, Hezbollah, or Assad in Syria?
While the White House now sees Iran as a de facto partner against ISIS, Israel continues to see Iran as an existential threat. In order to deter Iran, Israel may well decide to go after Assad. That will also mean going against Washington, which stands on the opposite side in Syria. This is the reality now dawning on Israel. When Netanyahu speaks before Congress on 3 March, he will be protesting much more than just a misguided American attitude toward the Iranian nuclear program.
It is startling and unsettling that what is so clear to Israel, to Arab nations and to a Lebanese journalist is so hard for the President of the United States to countenance.
Truly, in the spirit of the topsy-turvy world of Purim, as expressed by the Dry Bones cartoon which I posted at the top, we live in an upside-down world.