MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis | 1038 | November 27, 2013
The Geneva Agreement: The Path To Historic Changes In The Middle East, Led
By The U.S. Administration
By: A. Savyon and Y. Carmon*
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This is an initial paper analyzing the ramifications for the Middle East of
the Joint Plan of Action signed in Geneva by Iran and the 5+1 group on
November 24, 2013, and the roots of the U.S.'s policy change that led to
this agreement. This policy change concerns not only Iran, but also the
entire Arab and Muslim world.
This paper focuses on very recent developments and on the crystallization of
historic changes. It does not presume to explain the entire spectrum of
events in the Middle East as they happen, but sets out the broad lines of
this historic change in U.S. policy vis-à-vis the Arab and Muslim world as
revealed by the Geneva agreement, by what led up to it, and by the direction
in which it leads.
The new U.S. policy has geostrategic ramifications for the region, and in
this sense it constitutes part of the Middle Eastern reality and is not an
isolated, strictly domestic "American" matter. Rather, it is shaping the
Middle East reality that we at MEMRI are reading about in the media of the
The U.S.'s New Direction Is Historic; Iran's Nuclear Issue Is Just One
Element Of It
Since his 2009 Prague address on nuclear nonproliferation, President Obama
has been stressing both his vision for a world without nuclear weapons and
his promise to U.S. allies in the Middle East that he will prevent Iran from
The Geneva agreement, if it is carried out – keeping in mind Iran's decade
of proven deception – does indeed provide an answer to the threat of an
Iranian nuclear bomb, at least for the next six months. A final agreement
may also indeed be reached, if the focus is solely on a nuclear bomb, and
this too will provide an answer to this threat.
However, the Iranian regime's threat to the entire region and
internationally has never been solely that of a nuclear bomb. Rather, it is
a threat because it is an ideological Islamic revolutionary regime, that
openly threatens the other regimes in the Middle East with ideological
incitement and subversive activity. It does this using military and
ideological organizations, out of a desire to export the Islamic revolution
and undermine the existing regimes. With regard to the U.S. and Israel, this
threat is manifested in the Iranian regime's ideology of "Death to America"
and "Death to Israel"; on the international level, it is manifested in
its attempts to undermine the world order, with all its institutions and
their resolutions – the U.N. Security Council, the International Atomic
Energy Agency, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty – and in terror activity
worldwide, including the October 2011 attempt to assassinate Saudi
Ambassador to the U.S. Adel Al-Jubeir.
With regard to this comprehensive threat posed by the Iranian regime, the
Geneva agreement constitutes phenomenal reinforcement for Iran's
geostrategic might vis-a-vis the countries of the region, and enhances
Iran's efforts at subversion in the region and internationally. It gives
Iran recognized hegemonic status as a nuclear threshold state relative to
all the other forces in the Middle East; the latter will have to come to
terms with this and either submit to Iran's hegemony or pay dearly for their
security and survival.
Thus, while the Geneva agreement removes the threat of a bomb, it creates a
much graver multidimensional threat for the countries of the region – all of
which are long-time allies of the U.S. The agreement shifts the geostrategic
power relations in the Middle East and replaces the Arab-Sunni hegemony,
which for decades maintained the pro-Western status quo in the Middle East,
with Iranian hegemony, which remains as anti-West as it has always been. As
a nuclear threshold state, a hegemonic Iran will in the future threaten
Europe and later the U.S. as well.
The Roots Of The Geneva Agreement, And The Historic Change To Which It Leads
The Geneva agreement is rooted in a change in U.S. policy vis-à-vis the
Middle East and the Muslim world, led by President Obama and stemming from
his ideology – which he first presented openly in his 2009 addresses at the
Turkish Parliament and Cairo University. This policy change involves an
historic reconciliation between the U.S. and the regime of the Islamic
Revolution in Iran. But it is not limited to Iran; it is a process involving
the entire Arab and Muslim world, and it appeals to the peoples and to the
revolutionary forces within them, and disregards their leaders.
In previous attempts to appeal to the peoples of the region, that is, in
Ankara and Cairo in 2009, Obama presented a vision of an America that is no
longer an imperialist power that maintains military bases in the region and
intervenes militarily to protect the status quo, but a country that
identifies with the aspirations and interests of the Arab and Muslim peoples
and disregards their regimes. In Obama's perception, the overall U.S.
shift in recent years – the pinnacle of which is his attempts at
reconciliation with the Iranian regime – does not stem from weakness but is
ideologically directed; it dovetails with and intensifies the revolutionary
changes taking place in the Arab world since the Arab Spring, with the aim
of integrating the U.S. into the Arab and Muslim world of the future.
Obama sees Iran's Islamic Revolutionary regime as a legitimate regime that
the U.S. is not seeking to topple. On more than one occasion, spokesmen for
his administration have emphasized this position. Thus, in June 2009 his
administration extended no aid to Iran's reform movement that protested
against the Iranian regime following the presidential election there; thus
too the administration did not, following a White House directive, include
in the Iran sanctions the nearly $100-billion business empire known as Setad
because it is directed by the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The administration's explanation for this was that by excluding this firm
from the sanctions, it was sending a message to the Iranian regime that the
U.S. considers it legitimate and is not seeking to bring it down.
It should be noted that in contrast to U.S. administration spokesmen's
linking the recent American outreach to Iran with the election of President
Hassan Rohani, who is considered "moderate," this openness has no connection
to any changes in Iran. As has recently been revealed, secret negotiations
on the bilateral U.S.-Iran track began at the U.S.'s initiative in the era
of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and prior to Iran's June 2013 election.
The Ramifications Of The Geneva Agreement
First of all, it is expected that the Middle East region will go nuclear.
There are already signs of this, in official Saudi, Egyptian, and Gulf
statements. When this happens, Israel may be forced to emerge from its
nuclear ambiguity. Thus, Obama will have achieved the opposite of the vision
that he laid out in his 2009 Prague address.
Second, in contrast to his statements of commitment to traditional U.S.
allies, in practice the Obama administration's policy is disregarding the
security interests of these allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC) states – which have for years hosted strategic
U.S. military bases – and Israel. The administration is instead forming a
new axis, comprising the U.S. and popular revolutionary forces in the Arab
and Muslim world, for whom Iran serves an example.
Within this new axis, the U.S. administration is overturning not only the
power relations in the Middle East, but also the perception of who the "good
guys" and "bad guys" are. Iran's public relations efforts are being
upgraded, in a way that erases its worldwide ideological subversion and
terrorist activity, and its decade of deception about its nuclear program –
the latter of which has led to six U.N. Security Council resolutions against
it. Meanwhile, commentators close to the Obama administration are depicting
Saudi Arabia and Israel as the source of the tensions and problems in the
region. The result is serious damage to the commonality of interests
between Saudi Arabia and Israel and the U.S., and to these countries' right
to insist that their security interests be protected.
Thus, these traditional alliances have become a burden to the new U.S.
policy that looks to a different future, and traditional allies representing
the old world are now compromised. As the U.S. administration sees it, these
old allies have no cause whatsoever to complain that they are being
endangered by the U.S. reconciliation with Iran – because the U.S. has
promised Israel that Iran will be prevented from obtaining a nuclear bomb,
and has offered the Arab countries a nuclear defense umbrella. But
everything beyond that – that is, everything that concerns the revolutionary
shift in the U.S.'s relationship with the various forces in the Arab and
Muslim world – is U.S. business alone, and a U.S. prerogative; neither Saudi
Arabia nor Israel have any right to oppose it.
Accordingly, the Geneva agreement is instigating a profound and enduring
crisis between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries, and between
the U.S. and Israel. The moment the U.S. reached out its hand to hegemonic
Iran, which is continuing to undermine the Saudi and GCC regimes and
threaten Israel's existence even if not by means of a bomb, it placed in
question the commonality of interests and values it purportedly shares with
these traditional allies.
Despite President Obama's expectation that Iran will respond to his move, it
is doubtful that the Iranians and their allies in the increasingly strong
resistance axis will give his administration the cooperation that he needs
in order to advance his historic agenda. It is also doubtful that the U.S.
will win the legitimacy, or even the fans, that this move is aimed at
obtaining. Even if Iran does comply, any move in this direction on its part
will come at a price, as has been clarified by Iranian Foreign Minister
Javad Zarif, who stated that there is no normalization of U.S.-Iran
relations beyond the Geneva agreement.
Moreover, Iran will use its nuclear hegemony status, the legitimacy of its
regime, and the hand that President Obama has extended to it in order to
advance its status on the strategic and international level – but will not
do this in cooperation with the U.S. This is because ideologically, Iran
strives to change the global world order that is led by the U.S., and is
seeking a status equal to or greater than that of today's superpowers.
Furthermore, this historic move by Obama will lead to regional instability.
It will not assuage the existing tensions and conflicts; it will only
inflame them, and this exacerbation will take the form of violent actions
both in the region and outside it.
* A. Savyon is director of MEMRI's Iran Media Project; Y. Carmon is
President of MEMRI.
 As will be recalled, Iran declared at the outset of the negotiations
that it is demanding recognition of its nuclear program according to the
Japanese-German model, that is, the status of a nuclear threshold state. See
MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 209, Iran Seeks EU Consent for Modeling Its
Nuclear Program on the 'Japanese/German Model' – i.e. Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Capabilities Three Months Short of a Bomb, February 23, 2005.
 Even during the negotiations, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
expressed his stance vis-à-vis the U.S. and Israel. Leader.ir, November 20,
 Furthermore, the importance of the agreement lies primarily in its
geostrategic dimensions; it is important to note that in contrast to
statements by Obama administration spokesmen, the agreement does indeed give
Iran the right to enrich uranium, by virtue of the fact that under the
agreement it is continuing to do so and that this agreement itself sets the
parameters of the final agreement, and it states that Iran will continue to
enrich uranium on its soil even under agreed restrictions. See MEMRI Special
Dispatch No. 5535, The Geneva Joint Plan Of Action According To Iranian
President Rohani And Iranian FM Zarif, November 24, 2013. In addition, in
contrast to Obama administration statements, the agreement does permit Iran
to enrich to 20% for research and development purposes. Also, the work at
the plutonium reactor at Arak will continue, even if it is not expanded to
aspects of operation of the reactor.
 Notably, Obama demanded that the Muslim Brotherhood attend his June 2009
Cairo University speech, and in Israel in March 2013 he refused to speak at
the Knesset, but spoke instead to students, presumably a potential force for
change against the democratically elected Israeli government.
 See Reuters investigation, November 11, 2013.
 It should be noted that as with every ideological policy, actual
implementation involves exceptions and compromises, such as with regard to
Syria; in that case, the Obama administration is not supporting the Syrian
rebels for various reasons, whether or not this is due to circumstances –
because Assad's regime is hanging on and it does not matter that this is due
to help from foreign elements such as Iran and Hizbullah. The U.S. has also
launched a dialogue with Hizbullah as a legitimate political body. The fact
that the Syrian rebels include jihadist and Al-Qaeda elements also has an
 See for example articles by David Ignatius and Farid Zakaria.
 Zarif said in Turkey that the Geneva talks were only to resolve the
nuclear issue and not for normalization of relations with the U.S. He added
that if the talks were successful, then Tehran and the West must adopt a new
approach. Jomhour-e Eslami, Iran, November 3, 2013.
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