Israel steps up campaign against U.S.-Iranian diplomacy

The New York Times reports: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, stepping up his effort to blunt a diplomatic offensive by Iran, plans to warn the United Nations next week that a nuclear deal with the Iranian government could be a trap similar to one set by North Korea eight years ago, according to an Israeli official involved in drafting the speech.

Mr. Netanyahu is scheduled to address the General Assembly next Tuesday, a week after President Obama and Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, are to speak at the United Nations.

But the Israeli government, clearly rattled by the sudden talk of a diplomatic opening, offered a preview Sunday of Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-edged message, in which he will set the terms for what would be acceptable to Israel in any agreement concerning Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“A bad agreement is worse than no agreement at all,” the Israeli official said, reading a statement from the prime minister’s office that he said reflected Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks.

President Rouhani, in advance of his arrival in New York this week, has signaled a willingness to negotiate. The Obama administration, while professing wariness, is clearly intrigued by the possibility of resolving a problem that has bedeviled President Obama as long as he has been in office. And that, in turn, has deeply unsettled the Israelis. [Continue reading…]

BBC Persian’s Bahman Kalbasi writes: The message President Rouhani is trying to convey is clear – that he has “complete authority” and “sufficient political latitude” to engage with the US and its allies on the substance of their concerns.

Gary Sick, a former White House National Security Adviser, told the BBC: “What we have seen already has been such a dramatic shift. Rouhani and his team are the ‘anti-Ahmadinejad’.

“The sound of the rhetoric makes it so much easier for an American president to react positively.

“The positive tone was evident in Obama’s interview with TeleMundo TV. President Rouhani’s overtures are of the kind we have not seen before and we should test it.”

The talk of an “accidental” meeting between the two presidents in the halls of the UN’s headquarters this week has gone from wishful thinking to a real possibility.

The mood in New York is also very different from the previous years.

Gone are the protests and annual adverts on TV and billboards on Times Square with big pictures of Mr Ahmadinejad, denouncing his anti-Israel rhetoric and warning about Iran’s nuclear programme.

Instead, diplomats are waiting with anticipation to see how the new president gets Iran out of the international relations mess he has inherited from Mr Ahmadinejad. [Continue reading…]

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