The international community and Iran are on a path to reaching a “middle ground”
deal on Tehran’s nuclear program that will allow each side to claim victory, but
which will allow Iran to eventually become a nuclear state, a leading Middle
East expert told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Prof. Uzi Rabi, director
of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv
University, who will soon publish the book The Shi’ite Crescent: An Iranian
Vision and Arab Fear, added that an Israeli military operation against Iran’s
nuclear program was feasible several years ago, but that today, “the train has
left the station.”
He added, however, that the Iranian regime is rational
and calculated, and that Israel will need to start thinking about how to contain
a nuclear Iran together with Arab states that are also threatened by the Islamic
In current diplomatic talks between Iran and the international
community, “the two sides understand they have to reach a middle ground,” Rabi
said. An agreement will likely involve Iran decreasing its uranium enrichment
activities and a timetable for inspection of nuclear facilities, though it will
not include complete Iranian transparency, he added.
“Some of the sites
will be open for inspection. Everything will be partial. This is
convenient for the Iranian and the American presidents,” Rabi
Such an agreement will likely be supported by Russia – and
Europe, despite some reservations, will give its blessing as well.
will not provide any further concessions, Rabi stressed.
A deal on Iran’s
nuclear program might also expand to an international arrangement for the
attempted resolution of the Syrian conflict, Rabi said.
“The Iranians can
say: ‘If we’re accepted as a partner in future talks on Syria, we can carry out
steps that will push towards an end to the conflict in Syria,’” he
The US will seek to calm its Middle East allies, Israel, the Gulf
states and Egypt, all of whom are threatened by a nuclear Iran, and convince
them that it did not abandon them.
In Iran, elites tied into the regime,
such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, will also create obstacles to any
deal, Rabi argued.
Any lifting of sanctions will likely be gradual and
could involve a slow easing of restrictions on the Iranian oil or banking
But a partial nuclear deal is a “certified recipe for
creating a nuclear Iran in the intermediate future,” Rabi warned. Israel and
other regional states will have to start thinking about not only preventing Iran
from arming itself with nuclear weapons, but how to contain a nuclear Tehran as
Rabi expressed skepticism that a military attack at this late phase
could effectively stop the Islamic Republic’s march to atomic bombs.
strike can put them back perhaps by a year or two. What do you do at the end of
that time? Strike again?” he asked. Instead, Israel should enter a regional
coalition of states threatened by Iran, he argued.
Military generals in
Israel who urged the government to wait before striking Iran years ago should
not be pushing for a strike at such a late stage, he charged.
think a nuclear Iran will cause a regional disaster. It will create very
difficult challenges,” Rabi said.
He argued that Iran has been successful
in using diplomatic forums to isolate Israel, and that Jerusalem needs to
develop new diplomatic tools to fight back with.
Despite Israel’s “war of
attrition” against Tehran’s plans, “the world is allowing Iran to go nuclear.
Iran has things to offer behind closed doors. Israel isn’t there. It just gets
“We have to be responsive and not enter a state of
melancholy. There won’t be regional destruction or apocalyptic scenarios.
Israel must develop tools to ensure that its back isn’t against the wall,” Rabi
“Iran is very calculated. It does not want to lose resources in a
futile war,” he added.
Inside Iran, President Hassan Rouhani has managed
to convince the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, that a change in tactics is
in order to prevent a collapse of the economy and a new
Rouhani is a product of the Iranian regime, and his call for
a change of course is merely tactical, not ideological, according to Rabi’s
“He belongs to the elite of the Islamic revolution... what
he’s trying to do is prove that through his way, Iran can purchase estates of
support abroad and ease the sanctions, without significantly harming Iranian
“The Iranian charm offensive is working on the Europeans and
Americans, who do not want to get involved in another Middle Eastern saga, and
want to look at the half-full glass,” Rabi added.