Can Washington separate its Iran policy from Israel?

Trita Parsi writes: A senior German official told me in 2010, quite proudly, that under the leadership of Angela Merkel, Germany’s Iran policy had become a function of its relations with Israel. Whether Germany would sanction Iran or engage in diplomacy very much depended on Israel’s reaction. In its simplest form, the German official was explaining to me the process of “Israelizing” Iran—that is, turning one’s policy towards Iran broadly into a function one’s relationship with Israel.

No U.S. official has ever described U.S. policy on Iran in those terms to me. And if they did, most likely, it would not be accurate. But in the course of the last two years, particularly this past summer, we have also seen that Israel has played a far greater role in America’s Iran policy than many previously would have admitted. And for many on Capitol Hill, the reality is that Iran is primarily viewed through an Israeli lens.

This will be a major problem for President Obama, and for subsequent administrations seeking to sustain the nuclear deal with Iran. Not because Washington would not like to see significant changes in Iran’s posture towards Israel, or that it doesn’t believe that continued Iranian hostility towards Israel wouldn’t be a threat to the nuclear deal, but because the de-Israelization of Iran requires much more than just a change in Iran’s policy on Israel.

To understand why, we must first recognize why and how Iran came to be viewed from an Israeli lens by so many in Washington in the first place. [Continue reading…]

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