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On Iran, Deal or No Deal? Israel May Prefer No

Fear: agreement could cause military nuclear program to go overlooked

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Last month's P5+1 negotiations in Istanbul.(Tolga Adanali/AFP/Getty Images)

The leak yesterday of a sketch of a device used for nuclear bomb work that, according to a “country tracking Iran’s nuclear program,” can be found at Iran’s Parchin facility has lent new urgency to the P5+1 talks scheduled for Baghdad next week. It’s also driven a new narrative: that, for Israel, a resolution stemming from those negotiations would actually be a bad thing.

The logic goes like this: the P5+1 negotiations are focused primarily on uranium enrichment and are overlooking the explicitly (and allegedly) military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, which appear to be proved by such things as yesterday’s leak. U.S. expert Anthony Cordesman’s new report has received much attention in Israel. “The threat Iran’s nuclear efforts pose are not simply a matter of its present ability to enrich uranium to 20 percent U-235,” Cordesman argues, “and efforts to control its enrichment activities will not halt its ability to move forward in many areas even if its current enrichment facilities and stocks of highly enriched uranium are fully secured.” (David Albright said much the same in The Scroll last Friday: “If Iran showed in a verifiable way that it wasn’t going to build nuclear weapons,” he noted, “people wouldn’t care so much about centrifuges.”) Cordesman also convincingly lays out the case, based on prior international inspectors’ reports, that the program includes a military component.

Under Israeli thinking, a P5+1 deal on enrichment is a dialectical step backward, because it will reward Tehran and create international complacence, which will in turn weaken the sanctions that have so far effectively slowed Iran. As Defense Minister Barak put it, “If the demands are expressed in the minimalistic manner which we suspect, Iran could agree to all of them, and still be able to continue progressing toward a nuclear weapon.” A senior Israeli official, who for all we know is also Barak, added, “Israel’s main concern is if the talks lead to the stop of Iran’s nuclear program, or create a platform that buys Iran time, while eroding sanctions.” He concluded: “The recent positive statements made by Iran are meant to create an impression of moderation and bolster relations with the world powers, but there is no real fundamental change in Tehran.”

So, what are the plausible alternatives? Here are two different models. Patrick Clawson argues that the sanctions-negotiations balancing act needs to be accompanied by greater support for pro-democracy groups in Iran that may eventually lead to a new regime. “A democratic Iran would likely drop state support for terrorism and end its interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries such as Iraq and Lebanon, improving stability in the Middle East,” Clawson argues. “And although Iran’s strongly nationalist democrats are proud of the country’s nuclear progress, their priority is to rejoin the community of nations, so they will likely agree to peaceful nuclearization in exchange for an end to their country’s isolation.” On the other hand, Mehdi Khalaji proposes something of an opposite route, in which the United States goes out of its way to insist that it is not even thinking of regime change in order to give Ayatollah Khamanei the peace of mind—and the domestic victory—that will allow him to compromise.

Reports such as this one that Iran is getting what it wants could be designed to open such political space. But it also could worry Israel.

Meanwhile, though, columnist David Ignatius may be an uncharacteristic step behind in lauding the potential for a deal on enrichment. The potential is certainly there, but it may not be enough. If he is reflecting U.S. thinking, then the administration had better wake up to the concerns of Israel’s government, which is newly strengthened but still evidently as worried as ever.

Drawing Shows Iran Has Chamber Used for Nuke Arms Work [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]
Israel Fears Nuclear Deal Between Iran, World Powers as Baghdad Talks Draw Near [Haaretz]
A Compelling Plan for Iranian Talks [WP]
Sanctions Are Only a Stop-Gap [Foreign Affairs]
The Ayatollah Contemplates Compromise [The Washington Institute for Middle East Policy]
Earlier: Cleansing Suggests Iranian Military Program

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ginzy1 says:

“..plausible alternatives”?  Frankly these are naive, Pollyannish alternatives, that border on the delusional.  The Obamanoids can’t even bring themselves to support an open civil war against as certified despot & murderer in Syria, do you really think that they will provide sufficient support to the Iranian anti-ayatollah groups?  And given the US track record for cutting and running when the chips are down (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan) why on earth should the Iranian greens believe the USA will stick by them through thick and thin, especially given Obama’s shameful and mealy-mouth non-support of the Iranian greens 2 years ago?

And even if the USA gave significant financial & military (believe it or else, even minions of finger wavers just might not persuade the Revolutionary Guards to drop their weapons and run) support to the Iranian green movement, regime change will not happen overnight (see, Syrian).  It is even more plausible that the mad mullahs will simply accelerate their nuke development & use a test explosion to “persuade” the USA to drop its aid to the Green Movement and terrorize the greens in the process.

In short, Clawson (and by extension MT) is proposing most implausible alternative I have heard to date…. except for the other alternative by Mehdi Khalaji.  All we have to do is promise to be nice and poof, Khameini will agree to to play nicely too.  A Saidian fairytale in the extreme.

What is severely lacking among the hard-line “progressives” like MT & the Tabletarians (an apparently by Clawson & Khalaji as well) is a full appreciation of the theological underpinnings of the Iranian nuclear policy, as well as the Shi’ite deep seeded antisemitism, which has been around for centuries, and how that antisemitism has been aimed at Israel, at least since the days of Khomeini.  Remember it was the “moderate” (as labeled by the ostensibly omniscient NY Times) Ayatollah Rafsanjani (an open supporter of the Iranian Greens) who openly mused about Israel being a “1 bomb” state and that it would probably be worth it for Iran to sacrifice 1/3 of its population in a second strike, to take out most of Israel in a first strike.

About 6 years ago, the “New Republic” ran a cover story entitled “Ahmadinejad’s Demons” by Matthias Küntzel which explained and summarized nicely the theological underpinnings of the Iranian theocracy.  For some reason or another, the article is not available on the TNR web site, but can be read on Küntzel’s own site here:

I strongly urge anyone who is willing not to be deluded to read and internalized the article.

BTW, there are other commentators and experts who think that either the USA should attack sooner rather than later or at least give Israel the green light (and necessary tools) to do so.  They just don’t get mentioned as “plausible alternatives” by the terminally PC MT.  At the very least the Obamanoids should stop leaking critical details of Israel’s plans to the world media.

Ah but I forgot, his O-ness is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House.  And nothing is more important than maximizing his O-ness’ chances of re-election… even Iranian nukes aimed at Israel.

Hershel Ginsburg
Jerusalem / Efrata

    yevka says:

Brothers and sisters! The global economy IS GOING TO COLLAPSE IN 5 DAYS! THIS IS THE WARNING CALL! 


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On Iran, Deal or No Deal? Israel May Prefer No

Fear: agreement could cause military nuclear program to go overlooked

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