Frenemies: a story of Iran, Israel, and the United States


The Iran nuclear talks are one of President Obama’s top foreign policy priorities. But they’ve also wreaked havoc on America’s relationship with its closest ally in the Middle East: Israel.

International negotiators want Iran to agree to restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Obama’s strategy has been to try to convince Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to side with relative nuclear moderates, like President Hassan Rouhani. That’s meant reaching out to Iran in an attempt to bolster the position of the Rouhani camp.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees Iran as an implacably hostile enemy. He believes Iran will walk away with the sanctions relief and then go nuclear anyway.

Unable to convince the Obama administration of his position, Netanyahu began working with congressional Republicans in a clear attempt to sabotage the talks.

The whole thing has left Obama in a strange position.

Israel and the United States are close allies, and Iran is a traditional enemy for both of them. But the nuclear negotiations have seen allies squabbling while enemies negotiate, with the added trickiness for Obama of the emerging coalition between Israel and the Republicans.

These are bizarre times to be watching US foreign policy in the Middle East.

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