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December 5, 2014 11:00 am

Obama Administration’s Approach to Iran Alienating Middle Eastern Allies, Expert Tells Senate Foreign Relations Committee

avatar by Ben Cohen

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry negotiates with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif in Vienna, August 2014. Photo: Wikimedia

America’s allies in the Middle East are profoundly skeptical of the Obama Administration’s attempts to reach a deal with the Iranian regime over its nuclear program, a leading Middle East analyst has told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In testimony delivered to the committee on Wednesday, Michael Doran, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the George W. Bush Administration who now works for the Hudson Institute think-tank in Washington DC, warned that, “The tale that our allies tell about the thaw in relations between the United States and Iran is markedly different from the tale that the Obama administration itself is telling.”

Elite opinion in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the other Gulf monarchies, Egypt, Turkey and Jordan sees “no convincing proof that Tehran is changing course,” Doran said. Instead, these allies are worried by “a strategic shift in Washington” that has resulted in a “silent partnership” with the Iranians that the Obama Administration is “working daily” to enhance.

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Doran asserted that the Join Plan of Action over Iran’s nuclear ambitions agreed in November 2013 was regarded by America’s regional allies as “another sign of American retreat.” Doran identified five negative consequences of that agreement in his Senate testimony: firstly, increasing diplomatic and military cooperation between Iran and the United States, particularly in the war against the Islamic State terrorist organization; secondly, the absence of any change to Iran’s “malign policies” that “have deeply threatened America’s allies;” thirdly, the increasing acceptance by the administration of Syria as part of the Iranian sphere of interest; fourthly, the hostile rhetoric from the administration towards its long-established friends, such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and finally, the conduct of American negotiators towards Iran, which indicates that “American resolve is flagging.”

Doran’s remarks follow a call earlier this week from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) for additional sanctions on Iran in the event that efforts to reach a nuclear agreement by March 2015, the new deadline, are unsuccessful.

“At the end of the day, if no deal is reached by March 24, Congressional action to authorize prospective sanctions may provide the leverage we need to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state,” Menendez said.

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