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Editorial: Obama must stand firm on nuclear deal

Published:Wednesday | April 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM

In America's dysfunctional domestic politics, its advantage to Barack Obama is psychological rather than practically functional. But regional leaders should tell him, nonetheless, that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and its member states support the framework agreement between Iran and the Western powers to limit Tehran's nuclear programme.

It is our view - one we believe is shared by CARICOM's governments - that what is on the table is not only practical and workable, but adheres to the principles of the Treaty of Tlatelolco on nuclear weapons non-proliferation in Latin America and the Caribbean, to which all of the community's independent members are signatories. In that regard, Mr Obama should stand firm against attempts by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's leader, to undermine the deal, but continue to assert his right to conduct foreign policy against the efforts at encroachment by a recalcitrant Congress.

This deal, we remind, has been a decade in the making, born in part by the West's mistrust of Iran's insistence that its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy, and more specifically because of what, up to now, has been America's open chequebook guarantee of Israel's existence and security.

Iran has agreed to reduce its centrifuges by two-thirds and, for a decade, to enrich uranium at a single facility. For 15 years, any such enrichment can't go much beyond the minimum level required for the generation of nuclear power. Further, Iran's nuclear facilities are to be open to inspection for 25 years. In return, the West, in particular the United States, promises to remove its economic sanctions against Iran.

The operational details of the agreement are yet to be finalised, but this outline takes Iran beyond the requirements of other signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. There are not many reasonable people who would expect that anything more could be extracted from Tehran, hence their dismay at the opposition to the agreement. The explanation for the posture by Congress is obvious: Republicans are obsessed with being against anything done by this president. In a way, it is similar to how Jamaica's Edward Seaga once posited his role on Parliament's opposition benches: "Oppose, oppose, oppose".


an ideological state


Mr Netanyahu is perhaps not difficult to understand if you view Israel through the prism of its creation: an ideological state, nurtured from a political idea, acts of war, the displacement of people, and hinged on a presumed divine gift and the fact that many people, for a long time, did nasty things to Jews. While Israel's legal and existential legitimacy is now beyond question, it seems to be Mr Netanyahu's belief that the guarantee of that right/legitimacy is strongest in an environment of instability. War, and threats thereof, with certainty keep America onside. In a way, the psychology of Israel, or more specifically, hawks like Mr Netanyahu, demands that it has active and overt enemies, which, in a way, explains why the nuclear deal is not the only thing Mr Netanyahu opposes. He is also against a two-state solution to Israel's problems with Palestine.

Should Mr Obama be tempted to acquiesce to Mr Netanyahu, CARICOM leaders should suggest that he reflects on his errors with Libya and, as the New York Times recently reminded, that he has no reason to trust the Israeli PM's prognostications on Middle East politics. In 2002, Mr Netanyahu urged America's removal of Saddam Hussein, arguing that it would ignite regime change in Iran.