Why Should We Be Celebrating a Year of Abraham Accords?

Reprinted with permission from Responsible Statecraft:

A year into the Abraham Accords, it is clear that the agreement has only delivered arms sales, but no peace.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to deteriorate, de facto annexation of Palestinian territory proceeds all the while the U.S. embrace of the agreement signals American endorsement of this negative status quo. Rather than advancing American interests by promoting peace in the region, the US is helping cement conflict under the guise of forging reconciliation between three countries that never have been at war. 

Yet things can get even worse. At a time when the US should be reducing its military footprint in the region, the accord could bring America back into war in the Middle East by lowering the bar for Israeli military action against Iran. Any military confrontation between Israel and Iran will likely suck in the US as well. As the Quincy Institute’s Steven Simon wrote in his June brief on the subject, the risk of the accord playing this destabilizing role is particularly acute if talks to revive the Iran nuclear agreement collapse. 

Moreover, the accord undermines prospects of finding true peace in the region between Israelis and Palestinians. Recognition of Israel was always a means to an end – not an end in and of itself. The accord flipped this on its head and offered recognition without any movement on the Israeli-Palestinian front, further reducing Israel’s incentives to compromise with the Palestinians. Not surprisingly, all the countries who have signed onto the accord have either done this under duress or due to American – not Israeli – concessions on other matters.

Sudan was coerced into signing on lest it wouldn’t get off the US terror list. Morocco was offered a major shift on the US position on West Sahara. The UAE was offered F35 fighter jets – advanced American weaponry the Emiratis want in order to bind Washington to the security of their authoritarian state. None of these tradeoffs do anything to bring peace to the Middle East, nor do they, in the final analysis, advance US national security.

Trita Parsi is the Executive Vice President of the Quincy Institute. He is the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order and an award-winning author. He is the president of the National Iranian American Council and teaches at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. His latest book is Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.

The United States and Iran Must Deescalate Now

President Trump promised that assassinating Soleimani would deter Iran. Instead, as many predicted, it caused Iran to retaliate. Trump’s reckless actions made Americans less safe.

What is needed now on both sides is de-escalation and restraint.

Neither American nor Iranian interests will be served by full-scale war. There is still time for both sides to find a path away from war. What is needed is an immediate ceasefire followed by vigorous diplomacy, if not directly between Tehran and Washington, then through the mediation and facilitation of countries like Oman, Switzerland, or Japan, which in the past have helped to defuse U.S.-Iran tensions.

U.S. troops should leave Iraq

The United States should have removed its soldiers from Iraq before the assassination of Soleimani. Now it is urgent to do so. The more troops the United States stations in Iraq, the more targets it gives Iran and allied forces if the escalatory spiral continues. The Iraqi government, moreover, has requested that US forces cease military actions in the country without the prior consent of the Iraqi government and withdraw. Thus, there is no strategic or legal basis for the United States military to remain in Iraq.

Continue reading “The United States and Iran Must Deescalate Now”

NIAC: Trump’s Reckless Decision Puts US on Path to War with Iran

Contact: Trita Parsi
Phone: 202-386-6325
Email: tparsi@niacouncil.org

Washington, DC – NIAC President Trita Parsi issued the following statement in response to reports that President Trump declared he would snap back all nuclear-related sanctions under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, and impose new sanctions:

“Donald Trump has committed what will go down as one of the greatest acts of self-sabotage in America’s modern history. He has put the United States on a path towards war with Iran and may trigger a wider regional war and nuclear arms race.

“This is a crisis of choice. Trump has taken a functioning arms control deal that prevented an Iranian nuclear bomb and turned it into a crisis that can lead to war.

“This is not America first, this is Trump leasing out America’s foreign policy interests to the highest bidder. The only parties applauding this move are Benjamin Netanyahu and Mohammed Bin Salman, who have consistently chosen to undermine regional security to advance their own shortsighted political fortunes. Trump’s reckless decision is a betrayal of the national interests of the United States of America that could haunt us for generations.

Continue reading “NIAC: Trump’s Reckless Decision Puts US on Path to War with Iran”

Netanyahu Continues His Push To Unravel the Iran Nuclear Deal

Contact: Trita Parsi
Phone: 202-386-6325
Email: tparsi@niacouncil.org

Washington, DC – Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement regarding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation on Iran’s nuclear program:

“Netanyahu’s desperation to kill the Iran deal and drag the United States into war with Iran was on full display today. Netanyahu played a key role in helping con the American people into the war with Iraq and is now pulling out all the stops to do the same with Iran.

“Netanyahu revealed nothing that indicates Iran is not upholding its obligations under the nuclear deal. Anyone familiar with the history of Iran’s nuclear program or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will not be surprised by allegations that Iran had an active nuclear weapons program fifteen years ago. Those well-known concerns were the reason why the international community negotiated an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program and subject it to intrusive international inspections.

Continue reading “Netanyahu Continues His Push To Unravel the Iran Nuclear Deal”

Trita Parsi on Results of the Iran Talks

As talks between Iran the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) conclude, all parties should be commended for returning to the negotiating table. Obama should be commended for having turned diplomacy into a process rather than the one-off meetings that existed in the past. There is no other way to find a peaceful solution to this crisis. These talks were always going to be challenging, because making progress means tackling the thorniest issues that have divided the two sides for years. To that end, both sides entered negotiations with their maximalist positions, and neither budged. Looking ahead, now the hard work begins.

With that in mind, it is important to be clear about what has happened thus far. The U.S. made it clear that regardless of tangible concessions offered by Iran on 20% enrichment, it would still not offer any sanctions relief at this stage of the negotiations. As a result, the paradigm has shifted: It’s less about the U.S. knowing what Iran is capable of offering and more about one of two scenarios: The U.S. is either driving a hard bargain, or Congress has limited Obama’s maneuverability to the extent he does not have the necessary political space to offer sanctions relief to match Iranian concessions.

If this position is more than a hard bargaining tactic, and it holds in the next round of talks in Moscow in June, then likelihood of a confrontation will increase. This begs an important question: Is Congress willing to risk war for the sake of not lifting any sanctions – even if Iran offers real and tangible concessions?

We remain hopeful that this is a bargaining tactic rather than a negitiation strategy. The U.S. can afford to drive a hard bargain because time still exists to talk – but time is short.

A feasible solution is to match tangible, verifiable Iranian concessions with a delay of the impending European Unions oil embargo. This would add time to the negotiation clock and buy both sides some breathing space.

All too often in the past, negotiations have collapsed not because a deal couldn’t be found, but because domestic political factors prevented either or both sides from taking yes for an answer. Both sides must pursue a strategy centered on breaking the deadlock, rather than on appeasing domestic elements who fear peace more than they fear war.

Trita Parsi on Obama’s Speech to AIPAC

Despite the words of friendship, the diverging perspectives of the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government on key issues in the Middle East – the Arab uprisings, the Palestinian issue and the Iranian nuclear program – are profound.

The dispute on the nuclear issue is centered on red lines. Israel, like the Bush administration, considers a nuclear capability in Iran a red line. It argues that the only acceptable guarantee that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon is for Iran to have no enrichment program.

The Obama administration puts the red line not at enrichment – which is permitted under international law – but at nuclear weapons. This is a clearer, more enforceable red line that also has the force of international law behind it.

While expressing his sympathy and friendship with Israel, Obama did not yield his red line at AIPAC. With the backing of the US Military, he has stood firm behind weaponization rather than weapons capability as the red line.

He said: “I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon (emphasis added), I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.”

This is crucial because it is essentially a question of war and peace.

Critically, Obama’s rejection of containment at AIPAC was in the context of containing a nuclear-armed Iran, not a nuclear capable Iran.

He said: “Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Nowhere in the speech is he aligning himself, or even mentioning, the Israeli red line of “nuclear capability.”

The President’s tough words regarding his readiness to use military action is all in the context of preventing a nuclear weapon in Iran, not a nuclear capability. Strikingly, the president uses the D word – diplomacy – more than the M word – military action – in his speech (even though he primarily presents it as move that enabled greater sanctions on Iran.)

The Israeli red line is a fast track to an unnecessary and counterproductive war. This is why the US military and Obama so adamantly opposes this red line – because it ensures both war and a nuclear-armed Iran down the road.