Foreign Policy Blogs

Addressing Congress: What is Mr. Netanyahu’s Key Objective?


Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif walks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo courtesy of AP

The expected Tuesday address to U.S Congress by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has stirred vibrant debates about the potential impact of the address on U.S.-Israeli relations and on the fate of ongoing nuclear negotiations between U.S. and its chief regional adversary: Iran.

Parallel to heated discussions about the impact of the speech, there is also debate about what Netanyahu’s chief objectives are from his address to the Congress. Is he seeking to enable the Congress to have the last word in a final nuclear agreement? Is he concerned about giving Iran permission to continue to enrich uranium even if it is at low enrichment levels? Or is Israel concerned about a premature removal of sanctions against Iran?

In a recently published piece in the Huffington PostTrita Parsi, a long-time observer of Iranian affairs and U.S-Iran relations and and President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), argues that Netanyahu’s chief objective is to prevent any deal between Iran and the United States. In Mr. Parsi’s view, a deal between Iran and the United States and essentially better relations between the two countries is a big concern for Netanyahu. He argues that for Netanyahu, “it’s not the specifics of the deal that is the problem, but the very notion of a deal involving the US and Iran.”

Parsi underlines four key areas at the center of the Israeli prime minister’s efforts to undermine the nuclear talks:

  • Pressing the Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran before the talks began;
  • Pressing Obama to adopt the Bush administration’s completely unrealistic goal to eliminate all Iranian uranium enrichment;
  • Continuation of President Bush’s rhetoric of insisting that the military option remained on the table; and
  • Insisting on a very tight timeline for negotiations

You can read Parsi’s piece in its entirety here.