In my previous post I asked the question whether the US was preparing “to throw Israel under the bus?”
I answered by outlining the issue as seen through Israeli eyes. The logical answer seemed to be yes.
Well, as predicted by everyone the deal, a supposedly interim deal, was struck. Was it a tougher deal than originally contemplated as a result of French and Israeli resistance? That is not clear to me and I haven’t found any direct reference to a change in terms, if indeed any are to be found. But for the full deal, naturally presented in such a way as to make it look brilliant, find it here.
But given Iran’s history and persisting rhetoric, plus the general behaviour of Kerry and Obama, we are entitled to take a pessimistic view, so let’s list briefly the weaknesses of the interim agreement.
- Iran is not asked to destroy any of the massive infrastructure it has been systematically accumulating for decades which create the potential for rapid breakout to weaponisation.
- It is required to dilute or “convert” its near 20% uranium stockpile but not irreversibly (as for instance into a form incompatible with further enrichment or by sending it to the USA or some other “reliable” country).
- It is not asked to destroy or export any of its massive stockpile of 3.5% uranium.
- It is required to permit much more regular and intrusive inspections of those aspects identified in the deal (but not new or hidden facilities or related military projects like weaponisation and ballistic research and development).
- In the meantime some sanctions will be relaxed amounting to $7 billion at a minimum, and probably significantly more, Should Iran not comply (no absolute dates given but within the next 6 months) the option of more onerous sanctions are available to the P5+1 powers.
But in a remarkable escape clause – which for some reason has escaped critical comment – these requirements (relatively weak as they are) are conditional on them being “permissible within their political systems.” In other words, this remarkable clause suggests that if the Iranians claim that political constraints prevent them from complying with some, or theoretically all, of the provisions listed in the “Interim Deal” than the sanctions will not be renewed and additional sanctions enforced.
Given the fact that sanctions were applied only with the greatest difficulty and after many years of obfuscation and heel-dragging, it requires little imagination to visualise the breach in the dyke represented by the “interim deal” rapidly progressing to a fully-fledged collapse of the sanctions regime. Iran on its part will, if previous behaviour is of any predictive value, do everything within its considerable power to wiggle out of as many requirements as possible and its normal trading partners will rush in to take every advantage of the weakening of the sanctions regime. In short, after a minor hiccup on the way Iran will be on course once again to become either a de facto nuclear power or a de facto “breakout nuclear power” – more likely the former.
In order to reject this pessimistic view one would need to believe
- That Iran will be seduced by Obama’s charm and charisma to reverse decades of systematic defiance of Western norms and values, reverse its open hegemonic aspirations, cease its violent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and call a halt to its sponsorship of terror, extremism and fascistic countries and groups
- That the USA under Obama and the West will find the cojones to call Iran’s bluff and to reinstate even more crippling sanctions or resort to military action.
Neither of these outcomes seem likely and Israel, sitting in the crosshairs of a jubilant and resurgent Iran, is faced with a dilemma: wait out the 6 month period while acting the spoiler as the USA and the West do their best to turn a blind eye to Iran’s non-compliance or initiate a military strike on its own. In fact a number of observers are convinced that the purpose of this deal is, in part at least, to inhibit the likelihood of an Israeli military strike. In the words of Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Minister, Israel was not likely to launch any preventative strikes on Iran, “because no one would understand” such a move “at this stage.” See here.
The next few months will reveal more but it is clear that Israel’s struggle continues at multiple levels.
Here are further articles worth reading on this subject:
“A colleague who specializes in modern history remarked to me on Sunday that the deal signed with Iran is not comparable to the disgrace signed in Munich in 1938. In this historian’s eyes, the appropriate comparison is the West’s silence in the face of Hitler’s invasion of the Rhineland in1936….” Dan Margalit (here)
“In exchange for superficial concessions, Iran achieved three critical breakthroughs. First, it bought time to continue all aspects of its nuclear-weapons program the agreement does not cover (centrifuge manufacturing and testing; weaponization research and fabrication; and its entire ballistic missile program)….Second, Iran has gained legitimacy. This central banker of international terrorism and flagrant nuclear proliferator is once again part of the international club…Third, Iran has broken the psychological momentum and effect of the international economic sanctions. While estimates differ on Iran’s precise gain, it is considerable ($7 billion is the lowest estimate), and presages much more…” “Buying time for its own sake makes sense in some negotiating contexts, but the sub silentio objective here was to jerry-rig yet another argument to wield against Israel and its fateful decision whether or not to strike Iran. Obama, fearing that strike more than an Iranian nuclear weapon, clearly needed greater international pressure on Jerusalem. And Jerusalem fully understands that Israel was the real target of the Geneva negotiations.” John Bolton (former USA ambassador to the UN) writing in the Weekly Standard here.
And for something entirely different see Leon Wieseltier here.