John Kerry and Chuck Hagel want to reassure Israelis and Americans who express concern over Barack Obama’s sudden pursuit of personal diplomacy with Iran. They have no intention of forging an agreement with Hassan Rouhani simply on the basis of Iranian promises, but intend on forcing Tehran to meet concrete commitments to disarmament with real consequences for defiance. You know, just like we did in Syria.
Rapprochement with Iran won’t come at the expense of Israel’s security or its relationship with the United States, top Obama administration officials said Thursday, but they added that it would be “diplomatic malpractice” not to explore whether Iran’s nuclear program can be defused peacefully.
The forceful defense of engagement made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John F. Kerry during a visit here with their Japanese counterparts was the first high-level U.S. answer to a blistering rebuke delivered Tuesday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli leader warned that the West is being fooled by the new, friendlier face of Iranian leadership that is being offered by President Hassan Rouhani.
“I did not interpret Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments as suggesting that we are being played somehow for suckers,” Kerry said. “I understood it to be a warning: Don’t be played.”
That’s only because Kerry is as adept at listening as he is at bargaining. Barack Obama cited a fictitious fatwa from Ali Khameini as a sign of Iranian reasonableness, which means we’re already getting played. Rouhani himself is bragging about rejecting Obama’s calls five times before deigning to take his call, which isn’t exactly a sign that Iran enters these negotiations with a great deal of fear over American negotiations:
“Before my trip (to New York), the Americans had sent 5 messages to arrange a meeting between me and Obama, but I turned them down.”
“Then they raised a plan for a brief meeting, but I didn’t agree (with it) much; we didn’t disagree with (the idea to have) a meeting, but its grounds weren’t prepared.”
Besides, Kerry’s formulation is absurd in its literal sense as well as figurative sense. We’ve been pursuing diplomacy since 2003, when the Iranian nuclear program got exposed. Our European allies, who also happen to be big commercial partners with Iran, have pushed the P5+1 framework with our cooperation and participation. Rouhani may or may not offer a new approach from the Iranian side, but the P5+1 has always pushed for normalization and an end to sanctions as a trade-off for an honest accounting of and an end to their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It’s not as if American participation in that process has been a secret.
Anyway, here’s Kerry explaining diplomatic malpractice to the reporters in Tokyo. Note which “news agency” seemed happy to cover this: