Iran nuclear: Obama faces sceptics in Congress

President Barack Obama talks to UK Prime Minister David Cameron (21 Nov)

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The White House read-out of the half-hour call President Obama made from Air Force One to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pretty bland. You have to imagine the exasperated silences, the raised voices, the emphasis yourself.

I don't know, of course. Maybe it was perfectly amiable. But there is a cadence to the text that suggests otherwise. "President Obama called... The two leaders reaffirmed... The President noted... The President told..." and "The President underscored that the United States will remain firm in our commitment to Israel, which has good reason to be sceptical about Iran's intentions."

Israel is, according to reports, cross that it was kept in the dark about the secret talks between the US and Iran. There is no doubt this deal makes history. It is the first agreement between the US and Iran since the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis of 1979-80. That alone is enough to alarm some at home and abroad.

The deal itself is modest enough. It in effect freezes Iran's nuclear programme, in return for the lifting of a handful of sanctions, making it easier for Iran to sell cars, oil, petrochemicals and gold.

Congress is very sceptical about the deal. Many are suggesting that they should push for fresh sanctions even though the White House has claimed this could shatter the agreement.

Obama will probably get some breathing space, and any new sanctions might not kick in for six months. He could also veto anything Congress passed. But menacing squawks from a hawkish Congress could encourage Iranian hardliners to dig their claws in too.

Some have vociferously protested Iran gets more out of it than the West. This is probably correct, and those who say this is largely a confidence-building measure are almost certainly right.

But it is the next step that worries people.

The constant critics who see Obama as weakness personified trot out "Munich" and "deal with Hitler". Some point out that what can be frozen can be thawed - in other words, it is pretty easy for Iran simply to re-start its programme once the sanctions have disappeared.

The Saudis are unhappy that Iran's influence may grow. Perhaps they would rather have that country as a dangerous pariah than see it accepted as a legitimate player in the region.

Others are concerned it is part of a wider trend of US disengagement from the Middle East.

If Iran does give up on the weapons programme it says doesn't exist, Israel might find itself under greater polemical, if not actual political, pressure to give up its own undeclared nukes.

This may be a historic deal; it is what sort of history it leads to that is really important.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    "tolerant of criticism"

    All "intolerant" backs to the wall, living in fear & greed even amongst 'fellow-subjects' of Mammon (not citizens), with millennia of 'reasons' for hate, revenge, shame & fear of 'retribution' for deeds or crimes 'of poor fathers'. The litany of lies not just 'from abroad', but driven into our heads by what controls politics, education & media: private capital

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    298"The last world statesman was Gorbachev who ended the cold-war sooner than put up with yet more dumb jingoism by Reagan pandering to his right wing zealots."

    Absolute fabrication.USSR was bankrupted by Reagan ramping up the arms race.Soviet generals reacted to the numbers game.Gorby tried to save the USSR using Dubcek's tactics.Hard liners revolted and staged a coup d'état, a putsch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    #300 sieu

    "Jews might be more tolerant of criticism if it were based on all of the true facts in context.Instead it usually starts with a litany of lies,"


    (6 photos)

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    291 MK ‘Its (sic) amazing how liberal (sic) will appease anyone that thoughful (sic) conservative and great public servants like GWB and Dick Cheney’ (sic)

    Translation anyone? (Into English)

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    292Jews might be more tolerant of criticism if it were based on all of the true facts in context.Instead it usually starts with a litany of lies, facts out of context, distortions and draws a conclusion which can only be called hate speak. Anyone treated that way would be intolerant of it. The fact is that those who hate America, hate Israel, hate Jews, hate America's support are invariably liars.


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