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Israel reconsiders military action against Iran

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Historic negotiations with Iran will reach an inflection point on Monday, as world powers seek to clinch a comprehensive deal that will, to their satisfaction, end concerns over the nature of its vast, decade-old nuclear program.

But sharing details of the deal under discussion with The Jerusalem Post on the eve of the deadline, Israel has issued a stark, public warning to its allies with a clear argument: Current proposals guarantee the perpetuation of a crisis, backing Israel into a corner from which military force against Iran provides the only logical exit.

The deal on the table

World powers have presented Iran with an accord that would restrict its nuclear program for ten years and cap its ability to produce fissile material for a weapon during that time to a minimum nine-month period.

Should Tehran agree, the deal may rely on Russia to convert Iran’s current uranium stockpile into fuel rods for peaceful use. The proposal would also include an inspection regime that would attempt to follow the program’s entire supply chain, from the mining of raw material to the syphoning of that material to various nuclear facilities across Iran.

Israel’s leaders believe the best of a worst-case scenario, should that deal be reached, is for inspections to go perfectly and for Iran to choose to abide by the deal for the entire decade-long period.

But “our intelligence agencies are not perfect,” an Israeli official said. “We did not know for years about Natanz and Qom. And inspection regimes are certainly not perfect. They weren’t in the case in North Korea, and it isn’t the case now – Iran’s been giving the IAEA the run around for years about its past activities.”

“What’s going to happen with that?” the official continued. “Are they going to sweep that under the rug if there’s a deal?”

On Saturday afternoon, reports from Vienna suggested the P5+1 – the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – are willing to stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran.

Speaking to the Post, a senior US official rejected concern over limited surveillance capabilities, during or after a deal.

“If we can conclude a comprehensive agreement, we will have significantly more ability to detect covert facilities – even after its duration is over – than we do today,” the senior US official said. “After the duration of the agreement, the most intrusive inspections will continue: the Additional Protocol – which encompasses very intrusive transparency, and which Iran has already said it will implement – will continue.”

But compounding Israel’s fears, the proposal Jerusalem has seen shows that mass dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure – including the destruction, and not the mere warehousing, of its parts – is no longer on the table in Vienna.

“Iran’s not being asked to dismantle the nuclear infrastructure,” the Israeli official said, having seen the proposal before the weekend. “Right now what they’re talking about is something very different. They’re talking about Ayatollah Khamenei allowing the P5+1 to save face.”

Officials in the Netanyahu government are satisfied that their ideas and concerns have been given a fair hearing by their American counterparts. They praise the US for granting Israel unprecedented visibility into the process.

But while those discussions may have affected the talks at the margins, large gaps – on whether to grant Iran the right to enrich uranium, or allow it to keep much of its infrastructure – have remained largely unaddressed.

“It’s like the chemical weapons deal in Syria,” the official said. “They didn’t just say: Here, let’s get rid of the stockpile and the weapons, but we will leave all the plants and assembly lines.”

‘Sunset clause’

Yet, more than any single enforcement standard or cap included in the deal, Israel believes the Achilles’ heel of the proposed agreement is its definitive end date – the sunset clause.

“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,” said the official, “and then after this period of time, Iran is basically free to do whatever it wants.”

The Obama administration also rejects this claim. By e-mail, the senior US administration official said that, “‘following successful implementation of the final step of the comprehensive solution for its duration, the Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT – with an emphasis on non-nuclear weapon.”

“That has in no way changed,” the American official continued, quoting the interim Joint Plan of Action reached last year.

But the treatment of Iran as any other signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty –189 countries are members, including Iran – would allow Tehran to ultimately acquire “an industrial-sized capability,” the Israelis say. “The breakout times [to a nuclear weapon] will be effectively zero.”

Israel and world powers seek to maximize the amount of time they would have to identify non-compliance from a nuclear deal, should Iran choose to defy its tenets and build a bomb.

But in the deal under discussion in Vienna, Iran would be able to comply with international standards for a decade and, from Israel’s perspective, then walk, not sneak, into the nuclear club.

“You’ve not only created a deal that leaves Iran as a threshold nuclear power today, because they have the capability to break out quickly if they wanted to,” the Israeli official contended. “But you’ve also legitimized Iran as a military nuclear power in the future.”

From the moment this deal is clinched, Israel fears it will guarantee Iran as a military nuclear power. There will be no off ramp, because Iran’s reentry into the international community will be fixed, a fait accompli, by the very powers trying to contain it.

“The statement that says we’ve prevented them from having a nuclear weapon is not a true statement,” the Israeli official continued. “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. That’s the deal that’s on the table.”

Revisiting the use of force

Without an exit ramp, Israel insists its hands will not be tied by an agreement reached this week, this month or next, should it contain a clause that ultimately normalizes Iran’s home-grown enrichment program.

On the surface, its leadership dismisses fears that Israel will be punished or delegitimized if it disrupts an historic, international deal on the nuclear program with unilateral military action against its infrastructure.

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.

“Ten, fifteen years in the life of a politician is a long time,” the Israeli said, in a vague swipe against the political directors now scrambling in Vienna. “In the life of a nation, it’s nothing.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened the use of force against Iran several times since 2009, even seeking authorization from his cabinet in 2011. Iran’s program has since grown in size and scope.

According to his aides, the prime minister’s preference is not war, but the continuation of a tight sanctions regime on Iran’s economy coupled with a credible threat of military force. Netanyahu believes more time under duress would have led to an acceptable deal. But that opportunity, in his mind, may now be lost.

Whether Israel still has the ability to strike Iran, without American assistance, is an open question. Quoted last month in the Atlantic magazine, US officials suggested that window for Netanyahu closed over two years ago.

But responding to claims by that same official, quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg, over Netanyahu’s courage and will, the Israeli official responded sternly: “The prime minister is a very serious man who knows the serious responsibility that rests on his shoulders. He wouldn’t say the statements that he made if he didn’t mean them.”

“People have underestimated Israel many, many times in the past,” he continued, “and they underestimate it now.”

20 Comments on "Israel reconsiders military action against Iran"

  1. Plantagenet on Sat, 22nd Nov 2014 5:44 pm 

    After the Obama administration caves into Iran’s demands and allows them to go nuclear, Israel may decide they have no option but to act to protect themselves.

  2. Makati1 on Sat, 22nd Nov 2014 7:06 pm 

    Since the US gave Israel it’s nukes and most of it’s arms, the resulting war and blood will be on the hands of Americans. This war will surely bring destruction to US cities and people.

    I only hope sanity over-rides religious hate and they are blocked by the West. Attacking Iran could bring on blow-back from several nuclear armed countries, not to mention the end of the age of petroleum. $80 oil to rationing and very high prices by Christmas? Wait and see.

  3. Makati1 on Sat, 22nd Nov 2014 7:11 pm 

    Plant, you have had too much cool aid again. Israel is the aggressor here. Always has been.

    Iran has equal rights to having nukes as any other country. That Israel has them illegally (and some believe they got them from the US) makes all of this nothing but hypocrisy and lies. The normal ‘diplomacy’ of the West today.

  4. Northwest Resident on Sat, 22nd Nov 2014 7:33 pm 

    “Iran has equal rights to having nukes as any other country.”

    That’s a matter of opinion.

    Mak, your breakdown in logic is due to the fact that you see America as pure evil, so much so that in your illogical world view, America is by default more evil and more barbaric than any other nation.

    I guess, based on your logic, all nations should arm up with nuclear weapons, since you know, they have “the right”.

    Iran is and has always been ruled by extremists of one sort or another, including of course the extremists that American government supported and/or put into power. Letting Iran develop nuclear weapons is an invitation to nuclear terror attacks and nuclear attacks on Israel or others. And it sets the stage for other unstable regimes to argue the same point — that they have the “right” to develop nuclear weapons.

    Actually, America has the right to try to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and not only the right, but in my opinion a moral obligation.

    Israel might have nukes and probably does, but that’s been true for a long time and have they used them? No. They are only for self defense. But Iran, or radicals in Iran, would just love to get their hands on one of those nukes. They have sworn to destroy Israel, and they are a hotheaded bunch of religious fanatics that can’t be trusted except to carry on with their jihadist ways.

    I know, they’re still less evil and malicious than America, from your point of view. But that’s illogical, and for now, thank God, more logical points of view prevail.

  5. Makati1 on Sat, 22nd Nov 2014 7:34 pm 


    Worth reading and though, I think.

  6. trickydick on Sun, 23rd Nov 2014 4:28 am 

    NWR: Iran is and has always been ruled by extremists of one sort or another, including of course the extremists that American government supported and/or put into power.

    The same could be said about Israel. I like the chutzpah, though. “We think you hate us and might harm us, despite the fact that you have never attacked us before. So, we’re going to have to bomb the poop out of you. Sorry, -signed Israel.”

  7. .5mt on Sun, 23rd Nov 2014 9:13 am 

    MakTi my young and ignorant friend, it was the French that jump started the Israeli nuclear program not the US.

    It is said that those that don’t learn their history are also very likely failing in practical math.

  8. Davy on Sun, 23rd Nov 2014 10:02 am 

    .5, sorry, Mak is old and he is the board propaganda bitch. These are not the only distortions and misrepresented facts. Thank you for correcting him. I sometimes feel alone in the battle for truth and reason in regards to his propaganda distortions.

  9. J-Gav on Sun, 23rd Nov 2014 11:46 am 

    Makati – “Israel has them illegally and some believe they got them from the U.S.”

    They did get them from the U.S., via the French, in a deal arranged by a certain Simon Peres over 4 decades ago. Now, they most likely have between 100 and 200 warheads (Jimmy Carter let that cat out of the bag).

  10. trickydick on Sun, 23rd Nov 2014 12:50 pm 

    Mak catches flak for the sin of pointing out that Israel DOES have nukes and Iran does NOT. French supplier through Commie network or US supplier through Commie-Lite network? An unimportant and irrelevant fact.

    Why even go through all this subterfuge? Just start bombing more brown people with oil fields under their feet. That is the point of all this, no matter who is doing the bombing.

  11. Makati1 on Sun, 23rd Nov 2014 7:46 pm 

    Davy and .5mt, are you so sure about your accusations? I rarely see ANY references to back up you rebuttals. It is easy to poopoo someone else’ comment, but to back it up takes a few minutes of research.

    Your “opinon” carries no weight with me. We all have them. Back up your putdowns with real sources I can read and consider. But make sure they are not BS of another sort.

  12. Makati1 on Sun, 23rd Nov 2014 7:53 pm 

    J-Gav, there are some on here who pontificate to great lengths and say nothing. They like to put down those who have a different view of the world.

    What I type is what I think is happening. I can, and usually do, back it up with reference. Some do not seem to notice that they allow that on this comment panel.

    That my observations are sometimes negative about my birth country, seems to raise their blood pressure. So be it. Someone needs to spread the truth and shatter the myth of America’s greatness. There is not much positive left in America to talk or boast about.

    As I have said before, they can ignore my posts easily as I ignore theirs most of the time.

  13. MKohnen on Mon, 24th Nov 2014 2:56 am 

    Look, I know many on this site are tired of the US getting blamed for all the ills in the world, and often rightly so. But to declare the US as some kind of moral authority over other countries is, well, sickening. I know that the defenders of America are aware that the US is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons on people. And not soldiers, civilians. And not on a population that had any chance of threatening US civilians, but rather the wholesale slaughter of civilians to ostensibly save soldiers lives. And only soldiers who would be invading Japanese soil. Additionally, the supposed holder of moral authority has attacked more countries than any other country in the history of the planet. And most of those attacks were not because the US was being threatened by the country being attacked. Simply because the US decided that it was in its interests to do so. Millions upon millions of civilians have died because of US adventurism in war. So if you think the US is some kind of “keeper of the peace”, you must have a very kind view of Joseph Stalin.

  14. Davy on Mon, 24th Nov 2014 7:00 am 

    MK, sure you are right about US moral authority. It sickens me as well. The shallow flag waving is so unsophisticated and sheeple. You are incorrect about killings over the years by the US. You are exaggerating what the US has done relative to the rest of the world especially historically. Your using the worn out WWII NUk argument is unfair and distorted. Japan was in total war and its civilians were accountable. This is true for the world now if NUKs are used again. Civilians are accountable for the leadership they have. We can claim they have been taken hostage but the facts remain they are accepting the status quo.

    I would also like to know how many millions have died because of the US? What is that number and what are the examples? You are in extreme exaggeration IMO. This is what the board propaganda bitch says routinely. I have more respect for you. I am amazed with the resentment from our brothers up north. You all have benefited from the US in many ways. You can’t have it both ways. You are also accountable in participating in the same wars the US was in and profiting from them. Do you hear Americans criticizing Canada in a similar vein? No.

  15. MKohnen on Mon, 24th Nov 2014 1:36 pm 

    Davy, I don’t agree re: the WWII Nuk argument being outdated, though I do agree with regards to your statements about the culpability of civilian populations. But as for “millions upon millions” of civilian casualties being an extreme exaggeration, it all depends upon which numbers you use for tallying the casualties of Viet Nam, Korea, WWII, Afghanistan and Iraq (just to name a few.) It could be an exaggeration if you use the low numbers. To me, that’s like the argument over how many Jews died during the holocaust. Who cares? Whether it was 6 million or 6,000, it’s a horrible atrocity!

    And don’t be too amazed by the resentment from your brothers up north. Speaking for myself, I hold my country as culpable as yours any day. In fact, since this is supposed to me my country, I think I am even more disgusted by Canada than the US. The US can be quite the bully, but Canada is often the sickening little antagonist who runs out, punches someone, then runs back behind the bully for protection. If Americans don’t criticize Canada in a similar vein, shame on you. Canada deserves it!

  16. Davy on Mon, 24th Nov 2014 2:54 pm 

    Mk, If I moved anywhere I would be in Canada. I relate to Canadians better than Americans. I commented on your comment mainly because I feel the U.S. has not been exceptional in the category of bad. Where I very much agree with you is the nauseating moral authority hypocrisy. It pervades the political establishment. if you are going to be bad don’t hide it. I admire Stalin in that respect. He could give a shit what others thought. He did what he needed to do. Anyway, MK, I hope you are surviving the cold in your car north abode

  17. GregT on Mon, 24th Nov 2014 3:25 pm 


    Far north abode? Cold? 9C or 48F up here at my place in the great white north today. How’s MO. 🙂

  18. Davy on Mon, 24th Nov 2014 3:37 pm 

    Greg, I bet you miss those Hawaiian warm breezes. It is around 40 here in MO but strong winds. Going to 24 tonight. If I remember correctly MK is in Saskatchewan about midway up. Looks like nice temps today there but it is going to -5 Saturday.

  19. MKohnen on Mon, 24th Nov 2014 5:55 pm 

    Well, Davy, I’m actually about half way up Manitoba in the area called the Interlakes. Right now it’s -18C, with a “feels like” temperature of -23C. We definitely don’t enjoy the balmy temperatures of the “wet coast”, eh, Greg 🙂 Keepin’ warm by cutting and hauling firewood.

  20. Davy on Mon, 24th Nov 2014 6:11 pm 

    MK, hope that was not a slur being called a I have been messing with wood too. Stay warm

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