The leading nations of the world are capable of reaching a deal with Iran by next month’s deadline that would be far better for Israel than the alternatives, former US undersecretary of state Stuart Eizenstat told The Jerusalem Post.
Eizenstat was in Israel for the National Library Global Forum. A former deputy secretary of the Treasury and ambassador to the European Union, Eizenstat played a leading role in Iran sanctions issues under US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In his capacity as chairman of the Iran task force of the Atlantic Council think tank, he met in September at the UN General Assembly with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and reported afterward to top Obama administration officials.
Eizenstat took issue on Tuesday with Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz’s claim in The New York Times this week that not reaching a nuclear deal at this stage “can be regarded a qualified success, because it would represent the integrity of an international community adhering to its principles rather than sacrificing the future of global security.”
“No deal is not a success, because it means an unrestrained use of centrifuges, the Iranian plutonium plant at Arak continuing, no intrusive inspections, no elimination of 20-percent enriched uranium, and less likelihood of eliminating weaponization,” Eizenstat said.
Not reaching a deal, he warned, would undercut relative moderates in Iran, play into the hands of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s radical supporters and the Revolutionary Guard, and persuade them to weaponize, especially with a succession battle expected in Iran upon Khamenei’s death.
Eizenstat said that what is achievable in the talks between the so-called P5+1 countries and Tehran is extending the time for an Iranian breakout into a weaponized program for a year.
With intrusive inspections there would be a fair certainty of knowing if that breakout was occurring and a reduced likelihood of weaponization, he said.
He said all 20% uranium can be eliminated, reprocessed or diluted; Arak can be substantially degraded as a source of nuclear fuel; the underground facility at Fordow can be denuded; and there can be a significant reduction of operating centrifuges.
“[A deal] would not be a bouquet of roses,” Eizenstat said. “It has a lot of thorns in it. But the alternative is nothing but thorns. It would almost force a military reaction, which even under the best circumstances it would set back Iran two to three years and have ripple effects that would tremendously harm Israel, such as attacks from Hezbollah.”
Eizenstat said there was a 20 to 40% chance an agreement would be reached by the November 24 deadline and that he was certain a deal would be attained before US President Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017.
Responding to reports about Obama’s intention to bypass Congress and alleviate sanctions on Iran, Eizenstat said that would be a good thing for Israel because it would make it easier for sanctions to be reimposed.
He stressed, however, that if the negotiations collapsed and the sanctions option was exhausted, the military option was much better than letting Iran have a bomb, adding that he was sure the Obama administration agreed. America taking care of the military option would be much better than Israel doing so, he said.
“Iran getting the bomb would be destabilizing, upset the power struggle in the Middle East, and start a nuclear arms race,” Eizenstat said.