By: Brian Malczyk
On March 3, Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a speech replete with expansive analogies, bombastic rhetoric, and truisms to Congress. Following the same rhetorical trail as his previous speeches, Netanyahu proclaimed his thanks to President Obama, while proceeding to dismiss the logic of the President’s actions in regards to Iranian nuclear ambitions—paradoxically eroding bipartisan support while extending an olive branch to both sides.
To be fair, his presentation was rather tame, as the prime minister was armed with his words, rather than a vivid diagram presenting the level at which uranium enrichment would pose a regional, and, by extension, international threat. Certainly, a superficial description concerning the domestic and regional policy of the Islamic State of Iran discounted considerations vis-à-vis a domestic electorate, and the dual-power balance between Ayatollah Khameni and President Rouhani, both capable statesmen. Yet, despite all this, the tone of his speech was well placed and deserving of an audience.
Regional nuclear monopoly is less of a fait accompli than others believe, and Netanyahu has done well in exemplifying just that. For the past decade, the Iranian nuclear program has been in a waltz: twenty years of development, littered with secret negotiations and dealings, have only led to the further victimization of its commodity-based economy. Iran’s current President, Dr. Hassan Fereydoun—whose surname was changed to Rouhani, translating to cleric in Farsi— has an extensive record of appeasement and championing a public image over diplomatic gains. Netanyahu, within his speech, confirmed both the inability to establish transparency through previous IAEA-led initiatives, without mentioning Rouhani’s presence on the science team during the effort, and the precedent for secret developments without diplomatic channels.
Hyperbole extends from Netanyahu’s oratory, but, again, the extrapolation that he makes with Iran has a historical context: Israel’s concerns are reified through the development of nuclear capability in Iran, no matter the surrounding concessions. A regional matter may become international should non-state actors become tools of Iranian policy, and so his concerns were tactfully presented in an international forum.
All in all, past the emotional renderings, there is a pragmatic calculus spearheaded by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Fuelled by a twenty-year trend, the precarious balance that the Islamic Republic of Iran represents in its dealings with Israel’s stalwart ally trumps concerns of bi-partisan consensus in the United States. Netanyahu’s speech may have been boisterous, sure, but it is aptly grounded in the unconventional weapons balance that looms over Israel’s front doorstep.
Brian Malczyk is a third-year student studying Peace, Conflict and Justice studies at the University of Toronto. Brian is also Co-President of the Canadian Red Cross University Group and an International Presidential Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.