Israel and the Iranians: playing ‘chicken’?
Nov. 24 was the deadline for resolving the 12-year nuclear stand-off between Iran and the West, and the parties are wide apart on the issues.
That morning it was reported that the already extended Iranian nuclear negotiations will be extended again well into 2015. Again, Iran has bargained for more time, this time for an additional seven months.
Interestingly, the Iranian news media have portrayed Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, and Israel, “the Zionist regime,” as the main roadblocks to a deal.
On Nov. 22, a Jerusalem Post exclusive was an attention grabber: “Cornered but unbound by nuclear pact, Israel reconsiders military action against Iran.” The military option is again on the table.
This article has to be put in context.
The beginning point is Jeffrey Goldberg’s much cited article a month ago in The Atlantic, “The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here.” In that exclusive, an anonymous “senior Obama administration official” called Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a chickensh*t.” The implication of this remark was that the official felt that Netanyahu lacked the political guts to revive the “comatose peace process,” or to carry through on military threats over Iran’s nuclear program. Goldberg’s source said: “The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars.”
Goldberg went to another senior official who deals regularly with Israel, who added Netanyahu is a “coward” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat, adding, “the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. ‘It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.’”
If the Post report is solid, Bibi may be in the process of calling out his detractors in the Administration.
On the eve of a possible pact with Iran, the Post reported, “Israel has issued a stark, public warning to its allies with a clear argument: Current proposals guarantee the perpetuation of crisis, backing Israel into a corner from which military force against Iran provides the only logical exit.”
Israel’s concern is based on the lack of disclosure required of Iran. Reports from the negotiations indicate that the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — are willing to stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran. Jerusalem is concerned that mass dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is no longer on the table.
The major problem with the proposal currently under discussion is the “sunset clause,” which would put a definite end date on the pact.
“You’ve not dismantled the infrastructure, you’ve basically tried to put limits that you think are going to be monitored by inspectors and intelligence,” an Israeli official said, “and then after this period of time, Iran is basically free to do whatever it wants.” As the Israelis interpret the proposed pact, Iran will be allowed to acquire an industrialized capability leaving the breakout time to a nuclear weapon effectively zero. “What you’ve said is, you’re going to put restrictions on Iran for a given number of years, after which there will be no restrictions and no sanctions” the Israeli official said. “That’s the deal that’s on the table.”
Summarizing, the Post states, “By framing the deal as fundamentally flawed, regardless of its enforcement, Israel is telling the world that it will not wait to see whether inspectors do their jobs as ordered.”
The buzzword for this is “sneakout,” the risk of a bomb being produced at an undetected facility deep in the Iranian mountains, or built from fuel and components obtained from Iran’s trading partners.
It has been evident that Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to conclude a deal with Iran, to the extent that he is willing to strike a Devil’s Bargain. A month ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States and Iran were moving towards detente, with the United States yielding ground to Iran on the nuclear issue in order to enlist Iran’s support in the battle against ISIS.
“No agreement at all would be preferable to a bad agreement that would endanger Israel, the Middle East, and all of humanity,” Netanyahu said.
Bibi is sending the world a message that Goldberg’s administration sources have the wrong measure of him and Israel.