Nuclear deal or no nuclear deal? That is the question

Catherine Shakdam
Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising - Under The Banner Of The First Imam
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) and Head of Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi talk while other members of their delegation listen after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. officials at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne (Reuters / Brendan Smialowski)
As neocons are working to destroy Iran's tentative nuclear deal, US President Obama will have to either reinvent America's policy or give in to Israel's lobby and Saudi Arabia's paranoiac fear of Shia Islam.

If months of intense political wrangling were crowned earlier this April by the confirmation that Iran and the P5+1 countries reached a tentative framework agreement over one of the most contentious issue of the past three decades - Iran's nuclear dossier - it appears such diplomatic respite could prelude to a dangerous political standoff.

If by any account Iran's nuclear negotiations were going to be trying, especially since Tehran's nuclear ambitions do not necessarily sit at the center of this internationally staged quarrel, Israel's neocon war campaign against the Islamic Republic risks pushing the world toward yet another lengthy conflict- a global one at that.

With the fires of war already burning bright in the MENA region - Middle East and North Africa - the fall of another domino could prove one too many for the word to handle. From a purely geostrategic standpoint a war with Iran, however pleasing to Tel Aviv’s avid warmongers, would likely force Western powers and their Arab allies to commit more military power than they can handle. Bearing in mind that the US has already committed troops and resources to Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and of course Ukraine, how much farther can imperial America really stretch?

However grand the US might think itself to be, and however solid the US might think its alliances to be, Washington has yet to win a war. Claiming victory as George W. Bush did in Iraq on May 1, 2003 did not exactly make it so. And though America basked in the glorious light of its military supremacy over the "Iraqi enemy," its joy was short-lived as reality soon came knocking. And though starting a war might seem an easy enough business for neocon America, it is really the art of peace this belligerent nation has failed to master so far.

But back to Iran's nuclear deal.

To the surprise of many skeptics, Iran and the P5+1 did reach a deal - and while there were a few near misses, a deal was nevertheless brokered; proof experts actually insisted that Tehran is more interested in diplomacy than its detractors gives it credit for. Iran's concessions attest to its officials' determination to engage with the international community and integrate back into mainstream international politics.

As Gareth Porter wrote in a report for CounterPunch this April, "The framework agreement reached on Thursday night [April 2, 2015] clearly gives the P5+1 a combination of constraints on Iran’s nuclear program that should reassure all but the most bellicose opponents of diplomacy."

And although Iran gave every assurance its government will not seek to weaponize its nuclear program, no amount of concessions might prove sufficient enough or comprehensive enough to assuage Washington's fears vis-a-vis its "great Satan" - especially if the Saudis and Israelis have a say in it.

With the ink of the nuclear framework agreement still left to dry, both the powerful Israeli lobby and Al Saud's petrodollars went on overdrive, telling the world what a catastrophe Iran's nuclear deal would be.

One trip to US Congress and a few well-chosen words against its mortal enemy later, Israel seems satisfied it forever drove a wrench into the yet to be formulated and signed nuclear agreement.

Yuval Steinitz (Image from

As Yuval Steinitz, Israel minister for intelligence and strategic affairs so eloquently told the world on April 6, Israel would try to persuade the P5 +1 “not to sign this bad deal or at least to dramatically change or fix it”.

Echoing his minister's narrative, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu determined that since Iran represents a threat to Israel's very existence, America should abandon all diplomacy and instead beat the war drums. And we don’t really need to know why, only that it is so - If Netanyahu's drawing did not convince your idle mind of Iran's evil in 2012 then nothing will!

Just as Israel's lobby bullied its way through the Oval office, cornering U.S. President Barak Obama into relenting power to Congress, Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen, adding a new layer of complication to an already impossible mesh of over-lapping and over-conflicting alliances in the Middle East, thus weaving a dangerous noose around peace's neck.

Interestingly, if war requires no US Congress oversight you can be sure that peace does!

Caught in between a rock at home and a hard place in the Middle East, US President Obama is faced with one mighty dilemma - one which will determine not his presidency but his very legacy.

If recent tensions between President Obama and the Israeli Premier are anything to go by, it would appear Israel's lobby suit of armor is not as thick and potent as it'd like it to be, or maybe just maybe, it simply exhausted Americans' patience. Israel's greatest ally and supporter, the one power which has quite literally and almost single-handedly carried the Jewish State into being and helped it survive adverse winds since its very inception in 1948: vetoing UNSC resolutions when needed, propping its military and economy when needed, acting a political champion when needed, could be running out of road.

If Israel and Saudi Arabia's foreign agenda stand now in perfect alignment - their ire directed not at one another but at Iran, changes in the region and fast-moving geostrategic interests have forced the US to re-evaluate its position vis-a-vis Iran and the so-called mythical Shia crescent the world has learnt to be wary of without quite understanding why.

In Netanyahu's officials' own words we are to believe that Islamic radicalism, a perverted, acetic and reactionary interpretation of Islam which has mapped itself around Saudi Arabia's Wahhabism movement would be preferable to seeing Iran gain a greater footing in the Arab world. In September 2013, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad and the Shiites. “The greatest danger to Israel is by the [Shiite] strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in an interview.

We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry wait for the start of a trilateral meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne (Reuters / Brendan Smialowski)

Obviously Saudi Arabia would rather eat its own foot than allow the all so devilish Iran from reclaiming its standing in the region, especially since it would essentially mean relenting power to rising calls for democratic reforms in the Gulf monarchies - Bahrain being the flagship of such a desire for change.

Why do that when you can wage senseless wars to assert your dominion?

Iran's nuclear deal is more than just a nuclear deal. If signed, this deal would become the cornerstone of a broad shift in alliances, the moment when the US would actually choose to put its national interests over that of Tel Aviv and over Riyadh's billions. Where Israel has bullied the US for decades, Saudi Arabia has bought its policies for decades.

With nothing left to lose but his good name and his legacy, President Obama could be just the man to break this self-destructing cycle and reinvent America's foreign policy.

And that's not even wishful thinking it would actually make sense for America to make peace with Iran - economically, politically and in terms of energy security and counter-terrorism Iran could be a more helpful and potent ally than Saudi Arabia. Bearing in mind that Riyadh's fingerprints are all over al-Qaeda, ISIS and whatever terror offshoots radicals created those days, Washington might want to consider another ally in its fight against radicalism.

Thing is, America wants change! What it needs now is mastering the courage of its desire.

America is a superpower running out of steam, and more importantly running out of standing in the world. America's exceptionalism is on its last leg. Too many double-standards, too many incoherencies in its alliances, too many double-talks, double-entendres and double-crossings. America needs a deal.

And though the July deadline seems very far away indeed, especially since Yemen's war came to yank at diplomacy's already stretched out rope; not signing the nuclear deal would be far worse than ruffling Israel and Saudi Arabia's feathers.

For the sake of argument, why not ask Israel to pay the world the courtesy of practicing what it preaches in terms of nuclear transparency. That would be the nuclear deal of the century!

Catherine Shakdam for RT.

Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst and commentator for the Middle East with a special emphasis on Yemen and radical movements.

A consultant with Anderson Consulting and leading analyst for the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies, her writings have appeared in MintPress, Foreign Policy Journal, Open-Democracy, the Guardian, the Middle East Monitor, Middle East Eye and many others.

In 2015 her research and analysis on Yemen was used by the UN Security Council in a situation report.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.