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Did Israel spy on the Iran nuclear talks?

Caricature of SteveThe current negotiations in Geneva to curtail Iran from developing nuclear weapons have metastasized beyond the parties engaged in the talks.

Now critics of the discussions in the Middle East and Washington have become increasingly outspoken. Their opposition further complicates an already fragile framework for agreement before a March 31 deadline.

The principal parties are the P5+1 nations (United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China)–the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany.

No one questions that a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran benefits both the United States and the European Union. But no other stakeholder has a greater investment in the outcome than Israel.  Now she is accused of spying on the Iran talks. But who can blame her?

Tel Aviv is worried about the direction of the negotiations and those concerns prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bypass the White House when he stated his objection March 03 before a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Netanyahu argued that the proposed nuclear arms agreement with Iran would do nothing to constrain a bellicose Tehran from developing its nuclear arsenal with the goal of establishing regional hegemony and threatening stability in the Middle East.

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton and 46 Republican colleagues certainly agree and said so in an open letter to Iran.  Other observers are equally concerned.  Former Pentagon official Michael Rubin notes Tehran’s history of denying access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to suspected existing nuclear facilities.

And IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano himself conceded yesterday than Tehran has been slow to meet its commitment to clarify the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program.

Secretary of State John Kerry says he is hopeful that an accord can be reached. But in remarks over the weekend, he conceded there remain several sticking points and he failed to mention the March 31 deadline for a final deal.

Spying is the wrong word to describe Israel’s attempt to gain information about the negotiations. Israel has every right to see any proposed agreement with Iran. Yes, the negotiators have a vested interest in any successful talks. But for Tel Aviv the final accord is critical. Israel believes its survival and the security of its Middle East neighbors hang in the balance.

It is wrong that Middle East nations are not parties to these discussions. They should be. They have to live with the consequence of any agreement. The signatories to the accord do not.

Israel and other Middle East nations are excluded from the table when in fact they should be active participants. Absent from the talks, Israel has every right to gain information about its possible fate and to express its concern—before Congress and elsewhere.

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