By Richard Mather…
So negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program have been extended for up to an additional seven months after the international community failed to conclude a deal in Vienna.
Negotiators say the interim agreement (lasting until July 1 2015) will continue to restrain any attempts by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, but analysts say there is risk of hardliners in Tehran wrecking the entire process.
“These talks aren’t going to suddenly get easier just because we extend them,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters. “They are tough. They have been tough and they are going to stay tough.”
But in the absence of any real progress in stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the Israeli administration has already said it reserves “all options and all our rights to do what we see fit to defend Israel” (Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz).
In other words, Israel reserves the right to strike Iran – before or after July 1 2015.
Despite pressure from the international community there is no evidence that Iran is about to abandon its nuclear program. Irrespective of hard-hitting sanctions and international condemnation, Tehran has pressed on regardless. Iran has yet to come clean on the military dimension of its nuclear program. Without that information, say critics, it will be almost impossible for Western powers to authenticate the nature of Iran’s nuclear efforts.
What we do know is that last year the regime in Tehran unveiled plans to install a new generation of centrifuges, which are up to six times as powerful as the current generation. Meanwhile, Iran continues to exert its pernicious influence in Syria and Gaza, using Hamas and Hezbollah as proxies in its war against Israelis.
A strike against Iran’s nuclear installations seemed highly possible in the summer of 2012. But in recent months there has been little appetite for military action. Perhaps President Obama’s reluctance to offer military and/or diplomatic cover is the reason for Israel’s unusual hesitancy. Or perhaps Netanyahu has failed to convince ordinary Israelis that a strike would be the best solution. Or perhaps it’s because previous heads of Israel’s intelligence community have said an attack on Iran would be unsuccessful and counter-productive.
So, should Israel continue to hold its nerve and see if a deal with Iran is possible – even if it’s a deal that pleases nobody? And if a deal isn’t reached before July, does that mean Israel and Iran will pursue a precarious policy of containment in a situation akin to the Cold War in which both sides had the capability of destroying the other?
Still, Netanyahu is painfully aware that he risks going down in history as the man who let a tyrannical anti-Semitic regime get a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu may decide that a surgical strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is the only feasible solution. And if the US and the international community are too weak to stop Iran, then the Jewish state should not be prevented from taking unilateral action to defuse the greatest existential threat to Jewry since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.