by John J. Metzler
Weirs Times Contributing Writer
UNITED NATIONS– The Obama Administration and the tireless Secretary of State John Kerry endlessly strive to reach a nuclear “deal” with Iran.
Diplomats are searching to reach an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear development, and world concern is again focused on whether this elusive accord may genuinely stop what many observers see as Tehran’s race to get a nuclear weapon.
But beyond the obvious questions; how close is the Islamic Republic to getting a nuclear weapon, and what would they do if they had such a game changing force, and how such a destabilizing development would bode for the security of Israel, there’s a question of linguistic semantics in the negotiating process which has been largely overlooked.
We are not talking about Iran’s centrifuges or uranium enrichment here but the simple use of words which official Washington gushes confidently; a “Deal” with Iran which diplomats are aiming for by the end of March.
The phrase diplomatic deal does not evoke enduring permanence, but rather fleeting political expediency. Munich 1938, perhaps?
A diplomatic deal shows good alliteration but leaves the nagging innuendo that the agreement is less an achievement or an accord, than well, a Deal. In English the word “deal” comes to mind with buying used cars, iffy real estate transactions, or buy one get one free shoe sales. A “diplomatic deal” leaves an initial good feeling about a hard won political achievement, but then followed by buyer’s remorse. Remorse in this context is not about a product you probably don’t need but a geopolitical sea change in an already unstable Middle East.
There’s little question that the Israelis and much of the Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, and Egypt, are decidedly nervous over a nuclear Iran.
Make no mistake, this is not exclusively an American or Israeli concern but a real game changer. Once Iran’s nuclear genie is out of the bottle there’s a new order.
The United States along with the so-called P-5 plus Germany negotiation group, namely, Britain, China, France, Russia are pressing for an accord which would allow Iran’s civilian use of nuclear power but curtail Tehran’s parallel push to achieve an atomic bomb capability. Western sanctions have crippled much of Iran’s economy, in direct proportion to the Iranian regime not coming clean on its illicit nuclear development program.
Since 2006, the UN Security Council has passed six separate economic sanctions resolutions that require Islamic Iran to cease enriching uranium. It’s the sanctions, most diplomats agree, which has brought Tehran to the negotiating table.
But everyone is talking deals. The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says the West does not want “a bad deal” with Iran. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned, “France wants a deal but one that is robust…it’s the only way to avoid proliferation.”
Recently Secretary John Kerry intoned, “We continue to be focused on reaching a good deal, the right deal, that closes off any path that Iran could have towards fissile material for a weapon that protects the world from the enormous threat that we all know a nuclear-armed Iran would pose.”
In separate comments Kerry admitted, “Let me be clear we don’t want just any deal. If we had we could have announced something a long time ago.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani remains confident a deal can be reached. Iran loves dealing, the more the better, to keep the proliferation clock running. And there’s the unspoken issue of Tehran’s political hardline opposition to “reformist” Rouhani over any perceived softening with the West.
There’s also a serious rift in the U.S. Congress which is not only nervous about the likely concessions to the Islamic Republic, such as the secret clauses in the pact, but more concerned that Obama has vowed to bypass the legislative branch for final approval of the accord which most Congressional Republicans and many Democrats view as a disastrous deal.
President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry offer glib rationalizations about why the deal would be good for the USA, Israel and the wider Middle East. The political palaver coming from the White House towards why we should make this trans-formational accord with Tehran, as part of a presumed Obama presidential legacy, is put in the context of a deal. Indeed it should be.
The clock is ticking.
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014).