Negotiators for Iran and world powers announced Tuesday that they would keep talking in Vienna until July 9, extending the self-imposed June 30 deadline in order to attempt to reach a historic nuclear accord. The talks have taken on a level of extraordinary seriousness; reports out of Vienna indicate back-and-forth over the few remaining sticking points, not minor ones either, but a deal is widely expected to emerge soon. However, one party with a clear stake in the talks, but no seat at the table, has decided to mark the end of the nuclear negotiations with a salvo of decided unseriousness. I’m talking, of course, about the Israelis.
What was Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, thinking when he had his office release a video on the occasion of the original deadline that portrayed the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, morphing into Iran? And then portraying the “Islamic State of Iran”—instead of Iran’s actual name, the Islamic Republic—getting nuclear weapons? The 30-second cartoon makes a mockery of the Iran nuclear negotiations, which are intended to prevent Iran from being able use its nuclear program to get those weapons. Instead of raising substantive concerns with the emerging accord, Netanyahu’s opted for ham-handed war propaganda, making light of the talks. Any reasonable viewer won’t be laughing with Netanyahu, they’ll be laughing at him.
Take a look for yourself:
Here’s a hint about what Netanyahu was up to: The video is in English. It’s not aimed at his domestic, Hebrew-speaking audience but at the United States. And here’s another hint, among the remarks Netanyahu gave yesterday at a meeting with the Italian foreign minister:
The world is properly concerned and aghast at the violence and savagery of ISIS. No one would dream of allowing the Islamic State of ISIS to have nuclear weapons. Why would anyone consider giving the Islamic State of Iran, which is a lot more powerful than ISIS and acts with much greater power than ISIS to have additional power of nuclear weapons? That’s a mistake. The Islamic State of Iran, the foremost sponsor of international terrorism, should not have access to nuclear weapons.
We need a better deal. This deal should not pass.
To which one must ask: Pass what, exactly? Deals don’t pass, they are made between parties. The nuclear deal at hand will be forged between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which includes the United States, plus Germany, collectively known as the P5+1. But, under a US law passed earlier this year, Congress will have a shot at voting a deal up or down. As Congress is a redoubt of support for Netanyahu, despite (or perhaps because of) his recent racist election tactics, the prime minister is hoping to leverage it into a No vote. That’s unlikely—the law requires that Congress get a veto-proof majority, so President Obama must only hold down one-third plus one of either chamber to sustain the deal—but if Netanyahu has a fighting chance, it’s hard to see how this video will help him.