President Obama’s meeting today with Israel’s prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, won’t be focused exclusively on Israel’s stubborn refusal to move forward on a deal with the Palestinians. Also on the table will be the issue of Iran. And the president ought to tell the prime minister: “We’re handling this, so sit down and shut up.” The last thing Obama needs is more Israeli bluster about taking out Iran’s nukes militarily at such a sensitive moment in the talks. Why? Because Israeli bombast makes it a lot harder for Iranian leaders to follow through on a deal that is controversial within Iranian politics, since the Israeli bombast makes it look like they are capitulating to the “Zionist entity” if they accept the deal.
The deal, you’ll remember, reached Oct. 1, would provide for Iran to ship most of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for reprocessing for a medical-use reactor. As the deal became a political soccer ball in Iran, Tehran stalled — and new proposals surfaced. One, reportedly by Iran, would have Iran maintain control of the fuel under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on its own terrritory, but that’s a nonstarter. Another, brokered by IAEA, would allow Iran to ship its uranium to neighboring Turkey, while Russia would substitute reprocessed fuel of its own.
In spite of alarmist reports about Iran’s foot-dragging on the nuclear talks, the Obama administration seems to be handling the talks professionally and intelligently. Glyn Davies, the US representative to the IAEA told Reuters:
“There have been communications back and forth. We are in extra innings in these negotiations. That’s sometimes the way these things go. We want to give some space to Iran to work through this. It’s a tough issue for them, quite obviously, and we’re hoping for an early positive answer from the Iranians.”
Davies — who, by the way, seems to have been a very competent negotiator during all of this — added:
“Iran has the opportunity to embrace this deal, and it’s a very good, very positive…and fair deal. It would do much to move this process forward. When the reactor’s fuel runs out next year, we would help to keep it going. There are hospitals, doctors, cancer patients who rely on the material produced there. We know the leadership in Tehran needs to keep the reactor going. We would like to help with that effort.”