US ready to upset Israel and Saudi Arabia in pursuit of Tehran deal

Israel and Saudi Arabia alarmed at American persistence after the failure of Geneva talks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 November, 2013, 9:27pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 11:02am


The United States remains ready to upset key allies Israel and Saudi Arabia by securing a swift nuclear deal with Iran despite the failure of talks in Geneva, US-based analysts said.

While Tehran remained under the greatest pressure to reach a speedy deal with the major powers, they said, Washington was anxious to take advantage of Iran's willingness to negotiate an accord and avert future conflict in the Middle East.

What we have seen now is the willingness by Iran to negotiate

Three gruelling days of discussions between Iran, the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany ended on Sunday without agreement. The parties had been hoping to broker an accord that would curb Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

By searching for a deal, the US was "maybe trying to go a little too far, too fast, but they were induced by the Iranian enthusiasm", according to Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine.

"It is really the convergence of US and Iranian desires to avoid an even deeper confrontation over the nuclear file that makes an agreement possible at this stage," he said, citing the 10-year impasse concerning the nuclear programme, which Western powers suspect of being geared towards producing an atomic bomb rather than peaceful civilian uses.

Alireza Nader, a senior international policy analyst at the Rand Corporation think tank, questioned the suggestion that the United States was "rushing" to reach a deal at any cost with Iran, with whom it has had no diplomatic relations since 1980.

Despite the historic phone call between US President Barack Obama and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rowhani at the end of September, any improvement in relations between the two countries must continue to be viewed in the context of previious decades of mistrust and animosity.

However, it was clear the United States was keen on reaching an agreement in Geneva, because "a deal as a first step [provides] an opportunity to stop Iran from moving towards a nuclear weapons breakout capability".

Nader said the Obama administration had always favoured a diplomatic solution to the nuclear stand-off.

"I don't think the US position has changed in the last few months," Nader said. "What we have seen now is the willingness by Iran to negotiate."

Iran was keen to see an easing of crippling sanctions, notably restrictions which have frozen overseas assets worth several billion dollars.

US Secretary of State John Kerry defended Washington against the accusation that it was pursuing a deal with Tehran at all costs. "We are not blind, and I don't think we're stupid," he said.

He also sent a new message to Israel and Saudi Arabia, who have grown increasingly alarmed at the warming of US-Iranian ties, saying Washington had a "pretty strong sense of how to measure whether or not we are acting in the interests of our country and of the globe, and particularly of our allies like Israel and Gulf states".

Meanwhile, Iran has agreed to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to enter long-unseen nuclear sites - the key Gachine uranium mine and a heavy-water reactor in Arak.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's atomic energy organisation, met the agency's chief, Yukiya Amano, in Tehran and agreed a road map for greater co-operation.

Additional reporting by The Guardian