An in-depth interview with A. Pe’er, Hamodia’s military correspondent, on the latest political, security and defense developments in Israel.
The interim accord that Iran signed with Western leaders in November went into effect last week. Is it as bad as Israel feared?
It’s worse. Iran has succeeded in delivering a punch in the face to those in Washington, London, Berlin and Paris who thought they’d brought it to its knees in November.
The agreement is so vague as to be meaningless. There is a sense that we are entering into the unknown, a dangerously uncertain future.
There is only one thing about the agreement that is beyond doubt: The world has given its stamp of approval to Iran’s becoming a nuclear threshold state, while claiming that it won’t allow it to become a nuclear power. In reality, however, no one is going to check too closely on the inner workings of the Iranian nuclear program.
Israel will have to verify, through its own devices, that the understandings haven’t been breached and alert the international community, which may or may not be willing to listen.
At that point, when the details are known to Israel’s intelligence community, we’ll face the big question: Will Israel take action?
Anyone who thinks the Iranian problem is behind us is terribly mistaken. The public announcements made last week when the agreement went into effect cover up some serious disagreements between the sides about what the agreement says.
Representatives of the Western powers met last week with the Iranians in secret, closed-door sessions to try to iron out some important details that each side interprets the way it wants. In those meetings it became clear that Iran’s interpretation of the agreement completely contradicts Washington’s.
For instance, Washington says that the interim agreement contains a clause calling on Iran to immediately cease construction on its Arak heavy water plant, which will be able to produce plutonium that can be used in a nuclear weapon.
According to a fact sheet released by the White House, as part of the deal agreed to in November, Iran “committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track.”
But Iran begs to differ. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told his parliament that “the capacity at the Arak site is not going to increase. It means no new nuclear fuel will be produced and no new installations will be installed, but construction will continue there.”
In other words, the Iranians can continue building the Arak heavy water plant, and bring equipment into the finished building, and decide to advance the plutonium track at a time of its convenience.
What else did they fight about in last week’s closed-door meetings? According to the agreement, the Iranians obligated themselves to freeze their nuclear program at the 19,000 centrifuges they had when the deal was signed in November. The Iranians say they never agreed to any such thing. They say that not only will they continue producing centrifuges but that they will bring in advanced centrifuges capable of enriching uranium at a much faster rate.
There are other problems as well. Iran obligated itself to lower the level of enrichment of its uranium to 5 percent or less. It agreed to this because it already has enough enriched materiel to create several bombs. But who is going to supervise the reactors and make sure it happens? It turns out that the agreement doesn’t say anything about supervising enrichment. The clauses that do relate to supervision are so loose that the Iranians can enrich material to any level without anyone disturbing them.
Israel was quick to come out against the agreement on the eve of its implementation last week. It sent a distinguished delegation of experts and members of the Israeli National Security Council to show the Americans how the Iranians were pulling the wool over their eyes. But it’s hard to say that the Israelis who arrived in Washington found administration officials who were in a state of terrible anxiety.
Israel has a huge list of countries, companies and tycoons who are lining up to do business with the Iranians. And while Tehran is not doing even the minimum of what the agreement calls for, it is already enjoying its benefits, from the removal of sanctions and the fact that the world feels that the crisis is over and they can go back to dealing with a country that has huge cash reserves.
First on the waiting list to engage in business deals with Iran is Turkey. Next is Germany, followed by Argentina and Brazil. Fourth is China.
Two things are already clear: The P5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, the U.K. and France, plus Germany) will not reach an understanding with Tehran in the next six months, nor in the next year. And if an agreement is reached, the Iranians will go back on it and interpret it in a way that suits their fancy, because they understand that the West has no intention of confronting them.
Israel’s hope, which was based on things President Obama himself told the Netanyahu government, that a final agreement would put an end to Iranian nuclear aspirations, has no chance of being realized. Instead, we can expect one round of meetings after another, resulting in an occasion interim agreement that advances the process toward a final agreement.
Of course, this won’t happen. The expectation that a final agreement would be reached that undermines Iran’s legitimacy in the world was the foolish thinking of those who are rank rookies in the field of international diplomacy.