START for Israel; START against Iran

Earlier today on National Review‘s The Corner blog, Foundation for Defense of Democracies head honcho Cliff May wrote:

I’m now hearing from more than one source on the Hill that the Obama administration has just added a new argument in favor of lame-duck ratification: failure to adopt START will “hurt Israel.”

May demurs, naturally (the New START is an Obama Administration initiative, after all), then tells a joke, sets up a straw man, and knocks it down. May thinks the Obama administration scare tactic will be that without START, Russia’s nukes will  start “somehow leaking out and getting into the hands of Iran’s bad boys or other terrorists.”

But that wasn’t the Israel angle played by Jewish groups later in the day — though their tack does have something to do with Iran.

Laura Rozen reports for Politico:

Both the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) cited the importance of passage of the U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reduction treaty in order to maintain American-Russian cooperation in countering the Iran nuclear threat.

“We are deeply concerned that failure to ratify the New START treaty will have national security consequences far beyond the subject of the treaty itself,” the ADL said in a letter sent to every Senator Friday.

“The U.S. diplomatic strategy to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons requires a U.S.-Russia relationship of trust and cooperation,” ADL continues. “The severe damage that could be inflicted on that relationship by failing to ratify the treaty would inevitably hamper effective American international leadership to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program.”

The New START treaty may indeed be a necessary step for global security, but questions should be raised about linking it to Iran. This support by pro-Israel groups may prove to haunt U.S. policy towards Iran in the future.

One might compare this tack in pushing START to the sort of message Benjamin Netanyahu took away from meeting with Barack Obama about engaging in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks: that getting the job done (or at least getting to the table) will help the U.S. isolate Iran and contain its nuclear ambitions.

How many of these bargains can Obama enter into before he must pay the piper and make the ultimate escalation against Iran? If the diplomatic strategy fails, then what?

Perhaps this is pointing out the obvious: Something is truly amiss when a treaty to limit nuclear proliferation is being sold as the way to defend and protect a country that has an ever expanding — and clandestine — nuclear arsenal.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.