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 Republic.

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 stated.

Such an agreement will likely be supported by Russia – and Europe, despite some reservations, will give its blessing as well.

Iran 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 added.

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 industries.

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 well.

Rabi expressed skepticism that a military attack at this late phase could effectively stop the Islamic Republic’s march to atomic bombs.

“A 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.

“I don’t 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 reports.

“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 said.

“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 revolution.

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 assessment.

“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 interests.”

“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.

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