Having overseen an interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program, the Obama administration now intends to try to involve Iran in wider Middle East diplomacy, including an attempt to find a solution to the Syrian civil war, Israeli television reported Sunday night.
The report was one of a series of dramatic revelations and assessments in the Hebrew media on Sunday night, hours after the US and other world powers signed an interim agreement with Iran in Geneva.
Both of Israel’s main TV news channels also carried reports flatly stating that Israel’s military option is “off the table” for the foreseeable future. This claim was apparently based on assessments from inside Israel’s military establishment. Israel’s Channel 10 news reported that “the White House is briefing American journalists” with the same message: Israel cannot intervene militarily in Iran now that the interim deal has been signed.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly vowed Sunday to ensure Iran will not attain nuclear weapons, but privately the prime minister was said to have acknowledged that the Geneva deal has essentially sanctioned Iran as a nuclear threshold state.
Netanyahu is “extremely angry” over the terms of the deal, under which Iran will be allowed to continue low-level enrichment of uranium for at least the next six months, a Channel 2 report said. It quoted an unnamed senior official in Jerusalem, who stated: “In Geneva, [US President] Obama established Iran as a nuclear threshold state, and Israel, the prime minister has made clear, cannot live with Iran as a nuclear threshold state.” Israel, the report continued, regards the Geneva deal as “a profound failure” by the Obama administration.
However, one administration official said Sunday that no matter how furious Netanyahu is about the deal, Israel will let the US test out Iran’s intentions over the next half a year. “Bibi will hold his nose, but he’ll let us have six months,” the official was quoted by Foreign Policy magazine as saying.
The Israel TV news reports Sunday night also claimed that the Obama administration was still misleading Israel over its newly acknowledged secret back-channel negotiations with Iran in recent months. The administration “hid the fact of the secret channel from Israel,” Channel 2 reported, even after it knew that Israeli intelligence had exposed it. Obama only reportedly told Netanyahu about the back channel less than two months ago, when they met at the White House.
Aspects of that secret channel were still being hidden, Channel 10 said. The secret talks, led by Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, had begun earlier than the US has now admitted, and Obama intends to maintain them. It is the president who is essentially running the secret talks, the report went on, and the idea is to keep the channel open in the effort over the next few months to seal a permanent agreement with Iran.
Furthermore, Channel 10 reported, Obama intends to use the Geneva deal as the launching pad for further Middle East diplomacy with Iran as a central role. The administration intends to partner with Russia, Iran and possibly Saudi Arabia to seek a solution to the civil war that has been raging in Syria for almost three years.
As part of its efforts to heal the rift with the Israeli government and with the Saudis, the administration also intends to provide additional military and other aid to both countries, Channel 10 said.