Many media outlets, particularly in the Middle East, and members of Congress have described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress last week as a call to war. I believe this is a bad reading of the speech, and that sort of claim on this speech alone is bad journalism. The United States is currently crippled by extreme partisanship, which Iran and Israel are exploiting through rhetoric, which is meant to force lawmakers to choose a side. Netanyahu’s speech, along with rhetoric from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, proves the existence of that exploitation.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress took advantage of the extreme partisanship that has gripped the U.S. government in order to voice Israeli concerns with the current nuclear negotiations between the major world powers and Iran. These negotiations, as Netanyahu claimed, do not pay credence to the many calls for the destruction of Israel by Iran, and presuppose sanctions will not stop Iran from creating centrifuges that can eventually be used to make nuclear weapons. He also pointed out Iran is a proven sponsor of terrorism, and therefore untrustworthy.
His recommendation for the United States was that the world powers push for a better deal as sanctions create more leverage against Iran. Such a speech, made during an Israeli election cycle, is unorthodox. References to the Torah and comparisons drawn between Iran and Nazi Germany made it clear that Netanyahu was aiming more for an emotional response among generally pro-Israel Republicans than for a real policy change.
President Obama dismissed his speech as not offering any “viable” alternatives, which leads me to believe the president does not believe in sanctions as a tool for change in foreign governments. Based on the threatening rhetoric coming out of Iran, this is not a surprising response.
Zarif stated quite clearly in an NBC interview that Iran will respond to sanctions with additional centrifuges. When he said, “I think President Obama was right in saying that the sanctions caused Iran to go from less than 200 centrifuges to over 20,000 centrifuges,” he was ignoring some key features of policy-making in Iran.
Even though the sanctions were considered by Zarif to be “the most destructive … sanctions that the United States has ever imposed on any other country,” Iran continued to fund a hundred-fold increase in nuclear capability.
Even though Zarif complained in his interview that the sanctions were “depriving Iranians of even the possibility to buy medicine (sic),” Iran still placed these centrifuges at the top of its priorities.
Zarif lied when he said sanctions caused the centrifuges, a conclusion I am forced to make because I do not think he is ignorant of lawmaking processes in his own country. He goes on to falsely say, “Iran is known for keeping its word. We have always kept our word. … The Iranian people are very forgiving.”
This is a blatant attempt to change history, as it ignores the very foundations upon which the current regime in Iran was founded. Forgiveness did not found the Islamic Republic, and such a claim is especially hard to believe in light of rhetoric from Khamenei.
Khamenei’s tweet, which Netanyahu referenced in his speech to Congress, said, “Israel must be destroyed.” Another tweet by Khamenei asks “why should & how can #Israel be eliminated?” along with nine helpful paragraphs on removing the “fake zionist regime.”
Iran’s current regime is opposed to the existence of Israel. The idea that “pride” in Iran must manifest itself, according to Zarif, as additional centrifuges is ludicrous, and masks a serious disregard for human lives effected by sanctions.
Similarly, the idea that, “standing with Israel,” means an end to negotiations with Iran is ridiculous.
The U.S. and the other world powers are sovereign nations, and they alone make the choices, which effect nuclear negotiations. The fact that Iranian and Israeli officials and heads of government use our media outlets as a rallying cry for their cause indicates that we are so gripped in bipartisanship as to ignore the obvious discrepancies in their logic.
Now, as ever, the Obama administration and Congress are willing to compromise national security in the name of being right. As Americans, and as voters in a country that has enormous sway over foreign countries, it is our responsibility to remove politicians from power who have no history of compromise or coherent political rhetoric.
Julian del Prado is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]