WASHINGTON (JTA) — A top Obama administration official said that a nuclear deal with Iran could start the way toward a possible resumption of ties.
“A nuclear agreement could begin a multi-generational process that could lead to a new relationship between our countries,” Philip Gordon, the White House coordinator for the Middle East, said in a speech Saturday to the National Iranian American Council. “Iran could begin to reduce tensions with its neighbors and return to its rightful place in the community of nations.”
Gordon made clear that Iran had much to do beyond reach a nuclear deal in order to remove its pariah status, but his casting a nuclear deal as part of a normalization process and not an end in itself represented a shift.
At the outset of nuclear talks between the major powers and Iran in January, U.S. officials were adamant, including in conversations with Jewish leaders, that the only relief Iran should expect from such a deal was the removal of sanctions.
Gordon said there was “progress” in the latest round of talks with Iran ahead of a Nov. 24 deadline for a deal.
Israel has expressed reservations about the talks, mostly because of its concerns that the major powers seem ready to allow Iran limited uranium enrichment capacity.
However, Israel and a number of Arab countries are also concerned that the talks represent an entry for Iran into accepted status in the region without addressing its meddling, including backing for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that launched a war with Israel in 2006.
Gordon said that the United States in its talks with Iran had made clear that it regarded Iran as “irresponsible” and “destabilizing” in its backing for Hezbollah and other actions, but also suggested that a nuclear deal trumped other concerns.
“The nuclear issue is too important to subordinate to a complete transformation of Iran internally,” he said.