Ex-Obama aide says president not tough enough on Iran

Dennis Ross, others call on US president to avoid further concessions in nuclear talks, punish Tehran for sowing Mideast instability

US President Barack Obama delivers the State of The Union address on January 20, 2015, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: AFP/POOL/MANDEL NGAN)
US President Barack Obama delivers the State of The Union address on January 20, 2015, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: AFP/POOL/MANDEL NGAN)

Dennis Ross, a former Middle East aide to Barack Obama, urged the US president to impose punitive measures on Tehran for fueling instability in the Middle East and to break the impasse in nuclear negotiations.

Ross, known for facilitating peace talks between Jordan and Israel during the 1990’s, Eric Edeleman, a former ambassador who served as the US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and Ray Taykeh, a former Obama administration official and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a prominent political think tank, published on Friday an op-ed in Politico, an eminent US political publication, asserting that the US president has conceded far too much to Iran, as evidenced by its involvement in political turmoil throughout the region.

“The nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran appear stalemated. Meanwhile Iran is on the march in the Middle East with its forces supporting the coup in Yemen, buttressing the Assad war-machine in Syria, mediating between factions in Iraq, and plotting with Hezbollah operatives on the periphery of Israel,” the authors stated. “Today, the American alliance system stands bruised and battered while our friends in the region perceive Iran and its resistance-front galloping across the region.”

“These two simultaneous developments—the deadlock in nuclear talks and Iran’s aggressive moves in the region—are not coincidental. They are intimately linked, and that should be a lesson for President Obama: The nuclear deadlock cannot be broken unless Washington reengages in the myriad of conflicts and civil wars plaguing the region…The guardians of the theocracy will only contemplate serious nuclear concessions once they see that all the walls around them are closing,” added the trio.

Former Middle East ambassador and Obama adviser Dennis Ross at an event at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem earlier this year (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Veteran US diplomat and former Obama adviser Dennis Ross (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The authors called for a “revamped coercive strategy” that would curtail the Islamic Republic’s influence in the Middle East and a stop to further concessions in the efforts to reach a nuclear accord.

The article was written in the wake of heightened calls for additional sanctions on Iran from the Republican-led US Congress amid nuclear discussions with the Islamic republic. Obama had promised to veto any sanctions bill, insisting that any such action would derail P5+1 nuclear talks and provoke hardliners within Tehran.

A bill, authored by Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, and Senator Mark Kirk, a Republican representing Illinois, seeks bipartisan support in both legislative houses in order to ratchet up economic pressure on Iran and force the country into abandoning its nuclear program.

Tehran maintains its nuclear program is for civilian use, however skeptics, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, contend the Islamic republic is developing nuclear weapons.

The prime minister is scheduled to address the US Congress on March 3, two weeks before Israeli national elections, and urge US lawmakers to pass a robust economic sanctions bill against Iran.

The visit, which was not coordinated with the White House, sparked a row between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government, as the two heads of state have clashed over how to best deal with Iranian nuclear issue. The fallout led US officials to say that Netanyahu had “spat” in Obama’s face.

Israeli sources told Channel 2 Friday that given “the deep disagreements between Israel and the US” on the Iranian nuclear talks, Netanyahu felt that “he must present his stance even if that doesn’t suit Obama. This is a matter of substance.” The sources charged that the US was proving “worryingly” willing to over-compromise in the nuclear talks.

The Israeli sources further said that the US administration was taking advantage of the Israeli election season to seal a deal with Iran, and that this move must be opposed, Channel 2 reported. The fear in Jerusalem is that a US-led deal with Iran “is weeks away,” the TV report said.

Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry have indicated that they will not meet with Netanyahu during his Washington visit, citing a White House policy not to meet with foreign leaders ahead of elections.

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