Negotiations with Tehran began long before the timeframe presented by Washington, discloses Ben Rhodes; Israel, in the meanwhile, had to be persuaded not to attack the Islamic Republic’s nukes.
The dealings behind the agreement struck between Iran and world powers last summer were not exactly as presented to the public, Ben Rhodes, one of President Barack Obama’s top advisers, told The New York Times.
While the American public was led to believe that negotiations between the West and the Islamic Republic took off after the election of President Hassan Rohani, considered to be a moderate political force, negotiations with hard-liners began much earlier. The reason for the skewed presentation of the talks’ timeline, according to the Times’ report, was to enable the administration to sell the deal to a wider audience.
“We don’t have to kind of be in cycles of conflict if we can find other ways to resolve these issues,” he said. “We can do things that challenge the conventional thinking that, you know, ‘AIPAC doesn’t like this,’ or ‘the Israeli government doesn’t like this,’ or ‘the gulf countries don’t like it.’ It’s the possibility of improved relations with adversaries. It’s nonproliferation. So all these threads that the president’s been spinning – and I mean that not in the press sense – for almost a decade, they kind of all converged around Iran.”
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, also interviewed in the Times profile, noted that his job at the time of negotiations was to keep Israel from striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Speaking of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Panetta noted that “They were both interested in the answer to the question, ‘Is the president serious?’ ”
“And you know my view, talking with the president, was: If brought to the point where we had evidence that they’re developing an atomic weapon, I think the president is serious that he is not going to allow that to happen.”
Asked whether he would make that assessment now, Panetta answers, “Probably not.”