Israel, Iran, and the GOP
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Iran first began its nuclear program in the 1950’s with the help of the United States under the cover of the “Atoms for Peace” program. Originally, this program was meant to provide clean energy to the Iranian government and to the pro-US Mohammad Pahlavi, yet the western-aided peaceful nuclear energy program no doubt had more sinister goals, more specifically arming the Middle Eastern country with nuclear warheads to further deter the USSR during the height of the Cold War. It was a brilliant idea at the time, but the Carter administration had to deal with the consequences of this decision.
In 1979, the Iranian Revolution toppled Pahlavi and ushered in a new, Islamic regime headed by Ayatollah Khomeini, who promptly disbanded the nuclear energy research program due to religious conflicts. Under the watchful eye of the Ayatollah, Iranian officials signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (aimed at deescalating conflict between the United States and the USSR as well as preventing the spread of nuclear weapons), the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Ten years after the closure of Iran’s nuclear program, Khomeini was replaced by a new Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Under his guidance, the Iranian quest for nuclear weapons began anew, the first nuclear power plant in Iran was finished in September of 2011, and is has been suspected that the Iranian government has been conducting nuclear experiments and tests as early as 2003. Since then, the International Atomic Energy Agency among other organizations have issued warnings to Iran several times, warning them that continued nuclear development is in violation of treaties they had signed beforehand, drawing strict sanctions and embargoes from nations all over the globe.
Recently, the United States has decided to cut the Iranian government some slack in sanctions with hopes that the increased leniency they’re showing will coerce the Iranian government in complying with P5+1 powers. So far, these tactics have been met with success, as the new Ayatollah has allowed observers into the country to inspect the nuclear program currently under development after almost two years of continued stalling, set to expire on July 1 of this year.
In 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech condemning the Iranian bid for nuclear independence, and suggested that the frantic scramble for deals with the rogue Iranian government were fruitless, and causing a period of instability in the Middle East. Only a couple of weeks, Netanyahu gave the exact same speech, this time to the Congress of the United States. He continued to lobby against an Iranian nuclear deal, stating that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” Other than the obvious threat a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to Israel, Netanhayu fears a rogue Muslim nation with the nuclear capabilities in the Middle East, especially since the government in Iran is mostly Shi’ite.
On March 3, 2015 Republican Speaker John Boehner invited Israel’s prime minister to come address Congress on the subject of the ongoing Iranian nuclear deals. Repeatedly, the prime minister opposed the negotiations. However, the speech was not at all what it was intended to be. In fact, Netanyahu came to speak to Congress two weeks before elections in Israel, and the invitation was more of a power play by the Congressional majority than a mere address.
In a personal interview, I asked Democratic House Representative Steve Cohen what he thought about the address Netanyahu gave to Congress.
“Well, I thought it was more of a stab-in-the-back by the Republican majority than anything else,” he said, “Despite my Jewish heritage, I don’t support Netanyahu and his right-wing party. He came to address Congress without the consent of the President, which is practically unheard of before now, and it came at a time when public image is very important for him since elections in Israel are just around the corner. Not only that, but I think the Republicans used it as leverage for the upcoming elections by making it seem like Democrats hate Israel and Republicans love it. I had someone come up to me while I was eating dinner at a restaurant one night, and he asked my if I hated America. I was very perplexed, and I realized that my snubbing the speech made it seem like I didn’t support American-Israeli interests in the Middle East. It’s a terrible thing, really. I even tried to have the speech postponed until after his elections, but the proposal wasn’t even brought to the House floor.”
Netanyahu’s speech had a detrimental effect on the negotiations, and Iran is beginning to pull back on its many promises.
Overall, Netanyahu’s invitation to Congress was not even meant to be an informative talk or insider look at politics in the Middle East. It was an attempt by Netanyahu to boost his ratings for the upcoming election, and a power play by Republicans to fluff their own already considerable lead in preparation for the primaries as well as a way to undermine the struggling Democratic minority in Congress and the nation. In an age where a single Congressional leader can invite a foreign leader to address the nation without the consent of the president, the growing weakness of the United States becomes apparent in stark contrast to the rigid Russian government and deceitful European Union.