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Interim Nuclear Deal with Iran Does Not Isolate Israel Nor Signal a Shift by the United States

Israeli Prime Minister shaking the hand of Secretary of State John Kerry (Creative Commons-licensed Photo from US Embassy Tel Aviv)

A common perception that has emerged is that a six-month interim nuclear deal with Iran isolates Israel or appears to signal some kind of a shift on the part of the United States. If anything, it exemplifies the ease in which Israel can rely on the P5+1—Russia, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the US—to extract concessions that move Iran closer to entirely abandoning its nuclear program.

The Washington Post’s editorial board, while tepidly indicating support for the deal, highlighted nearly all of the aspects of it that people have mentioned when claiming it is bad for Israel. The Post points out “Iran will retain an enrichment capacity in a comprehensive settlement.” It suggests President Barack Obama’s administration will let “restrictions on Iran’s nuclear work” expire. It criticizes the fact that “insurance measures” intended to block Iranian shipping are going to be “relaxed.” It adds, “The Israelis warn that once loosened, sanctions may crumble, leaving Iran with a rejuvenated economy and a breakout capacity.”

Just about any Israeli leader who spoke out against the deal had their comments amplified in the US press without any caveats attached to what they said. Yuval Steinitz, who is Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, said it was a “bad deal that would allow the Iranians to continue enriching uranium, and this time do it with international legitimacy.” He wished the world powers had tried to “reach a much better deal that would start dismantling Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, not only freeze it.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal a “historic mistake.” was seized upon as evidence that this must be bad for Israel. Netanyahu also said, “This accord must bring about one outcome: the dismantling of Iran’s military nuclear capability,” as if that was not what the interim deal could achieve.

All of the above helped to create the idea that Israel was deeply upset with the deal. Yet, while everyone suggested that there was no way to trust Iran would actually dismantle its program and the deal was allegedly taking too much pressure off Iran, few have bothered to explore the possibility that Netanyahu and others, who have made hysterical statements publicly, may privately support the effort by world powers so far.

Natan B. Sachs of the Brookings Institution noted, “The deal curtails further construction at the heavy water reactor at Arak — key to a plutonium route to a nuclear bomb, it neutralizes the stockpile of near-20% enriched uranium, and it imposes daily inspections on the key Iranian facilities, in particular those at Natanz and Fordow.” So, the interim deal will make it easier to achieve one of Israel’s chief goals, the dismantling of Iran’s military nuclear capability.

Secretary of State John Kerry on CNN’s “State of the Union” said, “Israel is threatened by what has been going on in Iran. But I believe that from this day for the next six months, Israel is, in fact, safer than it was yesterday because we now have a mechanism by which we are going to expand the amount of time in which they can break out rather than narrow it. We’re going to have insights to their program that we didn’t have before.”

Kerry also said, “We’re going to have a limitation on the low enrichment at 3.5 percent. We’re going to have a limitation of the building and installation of centrifuges. I mean, Israel, if you didn’t have these things, would be seeing Iran continue on a daily basis to narrow the breakout time, to continue to do the things that it’s been doing.” And, he added, “There’s very little sanctions relief here. And the basic architecture in the sanctions stays in place.”

That all the main aspects of the sanctions infrastructure remain in tact is a product of Israel’s constant condemnation of the deal and Congress members’ criticism, which is driven by Israel.

Also, the Obama administration appears to be going above and beyond to obtain input on what a good final deal should be, even though Israel is not one of the P5+1 involved in negotiations. Obama had a long phone call with Netanyahu, where he reassured him that the “United States will remain firm” in its “commitment to Israel, which has good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions.” A team of advisers to Netanyahu were deployed to the United State to discuss a “final nuclear deal with Iran” with US government officials.

Quite clearly, the harsh reaction to the announced deal was about positioning Israel so it could continue to make it appear negotiations are not going the country’s way and set the terms for how much relief the US could offer Iran in any comprehensive agreement.

Kerry explained to the press that the process of which Iran will be forced to submit will involve verification that the program is not being developed for military purposes. However, Israeli leaders and anyone who agrees with their agenda will continue to make it seem like it will never be possible to verify whether Israel has abandoned its quest to develop nuclear weapons until it no longer has any facilities for nuclear power at all. It will also maintain that, while Iran may be cooperating in some facilities, there are probably other secret facilities that the world powers are not being allowed to inspect.

Should Iran claim in the coming months that it can reassure the world it has no intention to have a nuclear bomb, Israel and others can openly challenge this with the suggestion that just because Iran is postponing development does not mean it will not in the future.

This hysteria focuses attention on the supposed threat to Israel if this is not done properly, and, at least in the US, it ensures the government continues to assist Israel in ways that stall or stunt Iran’s emergence as a significant power.

Israel’s blustering gives the US cover in the world too. If Israel is not publicly pleased, it must do good things for Iran. And that ensures the benefits to Iran in addition to engaging with the country diplomatically remain minimal.

Diplomacy with Iran is happening as a component of an agenda to control the future of Iran and does not necessarily mean it is giving in to the aspirations of Iran’s leaders. It complements what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “crippling sanctions,” which have been imposed and maintained.

The Obama administration has, as New York Times reporter David Sanger reported in his book, Confront and Conceal, used offensive cyber weapons, like the Stuxnet virus, which has been used to damage the critical infrastructure of Iranian nuclear facilities. The unprecedented use of offensive cyber warfare has made it possible to avoid launching military strikes against Iran while at the same time stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

According to Sanger, Patriot missile batteries have been placed up and down the Persian Gulf in four countries: Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. The NSA has been successful at spying on conversations between Iranian scientists, engineers and superiors. The Obama administration has also pushed for oil revenues to be cut off and for banking relationships to be shut down.

Israel has engaged in a covert campaign to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, which for US officials is in the category of “things we don’t ask about.” Because the US has a “political ban on assassinations,” the US government cannot aid Israel in assassinating scientists. But the Obama administration has not attempted to stop Israel nor has it condemned these assassinations committed by Israel because internally it realizes this helps the US government advance its agenda.

The above has all been a part of a precursor to any negotiations.

Assuming that the process is successful, Israel is well-positioned to achieve a deal that benefits it directly. The only threat posed to Israel by this deal is existential; if it can be verified by world powers that Iran has no capability to develop nuclear weapons, it is a lot harder to get countries to take you seriously when suggesting the country wants to wipe you off the map.

The worst part about all of this is the effect sanctions have on Iranians. For example, Jadaliyya’s Mina Khanlarzadeh did research on the devastating impact that sanctions have had on people by making medicine scarce. They have threatened lives and impacted the “delivery and availability of medical supplies.”

Excluding Iran from the global financial system has made everything more expensive. Dental care is now a “privilege inaccessible to the working and middle classes.” The Iranian government has also been given greater space to marginalize dissidents in the country. Yet, as CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour stated over the weekend, the sanctions have not caused Iran to “capitulate or surrender” on its nuclear program.

Israel is not further isolated. It has strategized so it can get a final deal it desires or put Iran in an impossible scenario, where the country’s leaders reject the process entirely and accept the status quo until the time comes around for another set of talks.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."