President Barack Obama and other US officials participate in a video conference about the Iran nuclear negotiations in March. [Pete Souza White House Photo]
By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 15 July 2015
The deal between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Iran over the latter’s nuclear programme lifts an ominous shadow from a region already ravaged by bloodshed and conflict.
The spectre of another ideological, US-led war on the pretext, once again, of eliminating phantom weapons of mass destruction recedes with this agreement. For that, the Iranian people and all humanity should breathe a sigh of relief.
Today US President Barack Obama held a press conference in Washington to promote the deal in the face of outright rejectionism from many members of Congress and Israel.
Obama laid out the detailed mechanisms that will place Iran’s nuclear facilities under strict monitoring in exchange for an end to sanctions that have targeted Iran’s economy and civilian population.
“With this deal,” the president said, “we cut off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear program, a nuclear weapons program.”
Obama directly confronted critics, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I’m hearing a lot of talking points being repeated about ‘This is a bad deal,’” Obama said. “ ‘This will threaten Israel and threaten the world and threaten the United States.’”
What he had not heard, the president said, were any alternatives.
“And the reason is because there really are only two alternatives here,” Obama stated. “Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or it’s resolved through force, through war.”
“And if the alternative is that we should bring Iran to heel through military force, then those critics should say so,” Obama said, daring Netanyahu to call his bluff.
Obama’s press conference did not focus only on the nuclear deal. The president talked about what he hoped the region would look like by the time he leaves office in January 2017.
“I think my key goal when I turn over the keys to the president – the next president – is that we are on track to defeat ISIL [also known as ISIS or Islamic State], that they are much more contained and we’re moving in the right direction there.”
He said he also hoped to have “jump-started a process to resolve the civil war in Syria, which is like an open sore in the region, and is giving refuge to terrorist organizations.”
Obama hoped to “make sure that in Iraq, not only have we pushed back ISIL, but we’ve also created an environment in which Sunni, Shia and Kurd are starting to operate and function more effectively together, and to be in a conversation with all our partners in the region about how we have strengthened our security partnerships.”
That would include, the president said, “providing additional security assurances and cooperation to Israel, building on the unprecedented cooperation that we have already put in place” and reinforcing ties with Gulf Arab regimes.
He also urged that “we have to address the youth in the region with jobs and opportunity and a better vision for the future so that they are not tempted by the nihilistic, violent, dead-end that organizations like ISIL offer.”
What was notably missing, however, was any mention whatsoever of the Palestinians.
It was exactly one year ago that Israel was slaughtering children playing football, riding in taxis with their grandmother and sleeping in their beds in Gaza.
It is not surprising that Obama made no allusion to this. He publicly supported and assisted the massacre that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children.
In the midst of the slaughter, his administration moved to rearm Israel to ensure that it would not run out of bombs.
In the year that has followed, his administration has worked assiduously to block every pathway to justice for Palestinian victims of Israeli attacks.
The Obama administration was the only government to vote against a watered-down UN Human Rights Council resolution endorsing the independent inquiry that documented Israel’s war crimes and called for accountability.
Obama has, moreover, done nothing to lift an ongoing Israeli siege on Gaza that has meant that not a single one of the almost 20,000 completely destroyed homes has been rebuilt.
But a real measure of the official amnesia in the US capital is that not a single journalist asked a question about Gaza or more broadly Israel’s ongoing occupation and violent oppression of millions of Palestinians.
Almost every journalist given an opportunity to ask the president a question sounded like a spokesperson for Israel, echoing its government’s concerns.
The amnesia serves multiple functions: it reinforces Israeli impunity and it ensures that the official press corps can continue to promote the false narrative of a US-Israeli rift.
Those who believe that the Iran deal is likely to open a breach in US-Israeli relations that might even be beneficial to the Palestinians are therefore likely to be disappointed.
Yes, there is a sharp public disagreement agreement over the Iran deal, but even Obama knows this is mere posturing. Netanyahu too must know he cannot stop it, but what he can do is extort more concessions and handouts from the United States.
Israel’s tactic is always to scream and cry in hopes of getting more of what it wants. And it works.
Even Israel’s ostensible “opposition” leader Isaac Herzog is getting in on the act, with plans to fly to Washington to “lobby for a compensation package to ensure Israel’s military advantage in the region.”
What exactly is Israel being “compensated” for, since Obama has repeatedly insisted that his main motivation for negotiating with Iran is Israel’s “security”?
In May, Obama agreed to fork over an additional $1.9 billion in US weapons to Israel that will more than likely be used against Palestinians, and to reinforce Israel’s regime of apartheid and colonization.
Obama has made it clear that this is only a down payment.
The president told the The New York Times yesterday that despite Netanyahu’s efforts to “influence the congressional debate” against the agreement, he was confident the deal would be implemented.
But Obama affirmed that after Netanyahu is done trying to sabotage the Iran deal, the president would “sit down” with the Israeli leader to figure out what more the US could give him.
The message is clear: no matter what Israel does, Obama will reward it with weapons and deeper US ties. Above all, there will be no pressure over the Palestinians. It would be foolish to think that the president’s successor – whether a Democrat or a Republican – will do any less.
The message for those concerned about the Palestinians is to step up the pressure on Israel through all available means, notably boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), which Obama – like his would-be successor Hillary Clinton – has vowed to do all he can to oppose.