No, America's Iran Policy Isn't Beholden to Israel

Trita Parsi says Washington needs a "de-Israelization." But he overstates the influence of Israeli pressure.

Would the Republicans in Congress have agreed with Obama and the Democrats over the Iran nuclear deal if it weren't for Israel or AIPAC? Have the Republicans agreed with Obama on Obamacare, immigration and gun control? Hardly. So why would they have agreed with him over Iran?

There is also the impact of Iranian regime policy on U.S.-Iran relations, which on many occasions has created far more enemies for Iran on Capitol Hill than AIPAC could. This includes the 1979 takeover of the American embassy in Tehran and Hezbollah’s attacks on a U.S. Marine barracks in 1983, in which 241 U.S. service personnel were killed. Iran-backed groups in Iraq were reportedly responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers following the American-led invasion of Iraq. As recently as in 2011, the Iranian regime was reportedly planning to blow up a restaurant in the middle of Washington, D.C., in order to assassinate the Saudi ambassador—an attack which would have killed many innocent people.

The United States has certainly made its own mistakes with Iran. Just to name a few, there was the morally repugnant decision by the U.S. to stay quiet, and even help Saddam, while he was using chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war. It also took the United States eight long years before it paid compensation to the families of the victims of Iran Air Flight 655, which the United States accidentally shot down in 1988.

Then there is the impact of Iran's domestic politics on its U.S. policies. An Iranian-American dual citizen, Siamak Namazi, was arrested after the recent nuclear deal that many had hoped would moderate Iran's policies. This, alongside hostile statements towards the United States by the supreme leader after the deal, send a strong signal to America that despite Obama's numerous overtures, Iran's powerful hardliners don't want relations with the United States to improve.

There is also Saudi Arabia, which has serious differences with Iran and has tried to pressure the U.S. to attack Iran's nuclear program.

One could say that Iran is viewed partially through Israel's concerns in Capitol Hill. To say that on Capitol Hill Iran is viewed “primarily” through Israeli lenses is saying that Israel's influence is greater than the sum of all other factors which influence how U.S. lawmakers have viewed the Iranian regime. These are factors such as U.S. political polarization, domestic Iranian politics and Iran’s tortured relationship with America, as well as the role of the Saudis. This is a questionable claim to make as it ignores a complex relationship with numerous nuances.

The deal with Iran has been settled, against the best efforts of AIPAC and Netanyahu. The major problem for President Obama, and for subsequent administrations seeking to sustain the nuclear deal with Iran, is not the “Israelization” of America's Iran policy as Parsi claims. Instead, it will be whether Iran and the P5+1 are able to keep and enforce the deal. If Netanyahu and AIPAC could not stop the deal while it was being negotiated, a stage which was far more susceptible to pressure than the post-deal period, they will not be able to stop it after implementation, unless Iran or the P5+1 fail in their commitments.

Parsi refers to Iranian presidents such as Rafsanjani and Rouhani in his article, but he makes no mention of Iran's Holocaust-denying Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in his entire article. The supreme leader has the last word on Israel-Palestine issues, just as he had the last word on Iran's nuclear program. To date, he has not stopped calling for the elimination of the state of Israel. These days he is doing it in English, in case there were any doubts.

Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli researcher and lecturer. He is a senior research fellow at the IDC Herzliya's Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) and at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa. Follow him on Twitter: @MeirJa.

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