Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the 68th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Updated: November 7, 2013 6:38AM
If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears unreasonable on Iran, that is by design.
He is the bad cop — because he believes what he says and because someone must play that role — to President Barack Obama’s good cop.
Starting on Tuesday with an address at the United Nations and during a three-day media blitz that followed, Netanyahu made clear he doesn’t trust Iran’s new president. And he offered a compelling review of recent history that showed the world it should be deeply skeptical of overtures by Iran’s new president to curb his country’s nuclear program.
But for once, Israeli and American strategy seem to have diverged, though for a common goal of a secure Israel and a peaceful Middle East.
Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, though also wary of Iran’s motivation for trying to open diplomatic channels that have been closed for decades, have little choice but to temper their own deep skepticism and give diplomacy a shot.
As Kerry put it last week: “it would be diplomatic malpractice of the worst order” not to talk before turning to guns.
The door is open. The United States has an obligation to walk through. Talks open in Geneva on Oct. 15 with Iran and six western powers.
Iran claims it is interested in a nuclear program only for peaceful purposes, and U.S. and western leaders seem resigned to allowing Iran to keep some limited nuclear capability.
Netanyahu has no patience for such talk, saying Iran must dismantle its entire nuclear program. He is urging the continuation of stiff economic sanctions.
We put great stock in that view. As Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a recent op-ed in the Financial Times, “I have yet to encounter the U.S. expert who believes that Iran’s nuclear program is, as President Hassan Rouhani maintains, for peaceful — that is to say, energy-related — purposes, given that country’s enormous oil reserves.”
Talks on Iran begin Oct. 15 and they are not expected to drag on. The world soon will know Iran’s true intentions.