JERUSALEM – As a result of the diplomatic momentum geared to disarm international suspicions over the explosive issue of Iran’s nuclear program, the one country not directly party to the two-track negotiation process feels more isolated than Iran.
Following the putative breakthrough reached by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, according to which Iran would permit the nuclear watchdog to inspect secret Iranian military sites (including the Parchin base where nuclear weapons’ testing was apparently conducted in 2003), Israel fears the international community will lower its guard.
"The Iranians are serial agreement violators," warned an Israeli official. "We know from past experiences how all these agreements between the IAEA and Iran end."
"The world’s leading countries must show determination, not weakness," urged the Israeli Prime Minister before the positive development.
Israel suspects that as part of a confidence-building package, the P5+1 will accede to Tehran’s request to ease the strict regime of sanctions due to become even stricter on Jul. 1. "They don’t need make concessions to Iran," Netanyahu added, "They need to set clear and unequivocal demands before it."
For its part, Israel unequivocally demands that the success of the Baghdad talks between the P5+1 (the five Security Council members plus Germany) and the Islamic Republic be contingent on a complete "freeze of all enrichment inside Iran" (not just of its already-enriched 20 percent uranium); the "removal of all enriched material outside of Iran" (not simply most of it); and, the "dismantlement" of the Fordow facility (not merely a suspension of the underground site’s enrichment activities).
"Israel’s position has not, and won’t, change," stressed Netanyahu. "Obviously, nothing would be better than to see this issue resolved diplomatically. But I have seen no evidence that Iran is serious about stopping its nuclear weapons program," he also stated.
The real test lies in the implementation of any putative agreement, be it on inspections of nuclear sites or on uranium enrichment, emphasize Israeli leaders. In any case, inspections of secret facilities would come after a comprehensive agreement was reached on Iran’s 20 percent-enriched uranium stockpile. And, the diplomatic haggling could last months.
Iran "may try to go from meeting to meeting with empty promises. It may agree to something in principle but not implement it. They might even agree to implement something that doesn’t materially derail their nuclear weapons program," was Netanyahu’s presumption.
"When this goal’s achieved, I’ll be the first to applaud. Until then, count me among the skeptics," Netanyahu added.
A western diplomat involved in the Baghdad talks qualified the skeptical attitude "unwarranted cynicism" as he stressed that any deal with IAEA would require Iran to take immediate and concrete steps.
But Israel’s fears run deeper – that in order to avert a head-on confrontation, in the coming months each of the players in the nuclear chess game – Iran, the IAEA, the P5+1, especially the U.S. – will be playing a double-barreled game.
To assuage its Mideast ally, the U.S. ambassador to Israel declared last week that Washington was not just willing to use military force to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. "It would be preferable to resolve this diplomatically and through the use of pressure than to use military force," Dan Shapiro stressed. "But that doesn’t mean that option isn’t fully available. And not just available, but it’s ready. The necessary planning has been done to ensure that it’s ready."
But then, following the visit to Washington of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested that defense rather than offence is the recommended strategy.
"If the president were to ask me what we could do to respond to an Iranian provocation, I would have a menu of options," Gen. Martin Dempsey assured in an interview to the Chicago Tribune on Friday. Yet, he cautioned: "Our stance (…) is one of preparedness and deterrence. It’s not a stance that’s based on offensive action."
And, an alarming analysis published a fortnight ago by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies and quoted in the Israeli media suggested that ultimately, Iran could manage to address the nuclear standoff successfully.
In an article entitled Rethinking Our Approach to Iran’s Search for the Bomb, Anthony Cordesman writes that "Iran’s efforts are part of a far broader range of efforts that have already brought it to the point where it can pursue nuclear weapons development through a range of compartmented and easily concealable programs without a formal weapons program, and even if it suspends enrichment activity."
Relying solely on unrestricted sources (among them the Nov. 2011 IAEA report), Cordesman estimates that even if Iran’s enrichment facilities were inspected (in case of an agreement) or destroyed (in absence of agreement), that in and of itself would not necessarily end the Ayatollah regime’s nuclear capability as it "would take an amazing amount of intelligence access to prevent" Iran from creating replacement enrichment facilities…"
Moreover, "Iran could appear to agree to arms control or appear to have had its programs destroyed and still go on creating better future enrichment capability.
"In the case of preventive strikes, it means recognizing that even a major first round of strikes is unlikely to have a lasting effect and might well push Iran into a far larger nuclear effort unless Iran realizes that any such effort would result in follow-on attacks," concludes the strategic analyst.
Up until now, Netanyahu and Barack quite successfully managed to convince the international community that if it didn’t act to quell Iran’s nuclear program, Israel would.
Now that the world is seriously engaged in talks with Iran, the realization is that the two-track diplomacy – IAEA-Iran and P5+1-Iran – is aimed at neutralizing not only Iran’s nuclear effort, but also Israel’s threat of a unilateral strike.
(Inter Press Service)