Analysis: Mixed feelings over possible Iran deal

Israel struck by mixed feelings amid optimism in West that Iran nuke talks in Baghdad could end in agreement.

By
May 21, 2012 00:57
2 minute read.
Iran nuclear talks in Istanbul

Iran nuclear talks in Istanbul 370 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Tolga Adanali/Pool)

 
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Israel was struck by mixed feelings on Sunday amid optimism in the West that talks world powers will hold with Iran this week in Baghdad could end in an agreement over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

On the one hand, Israeli officials acknowledged that without Israel’s efforts and primarily Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s saber rattling, the world would not have imposed the sanctions it has and would not be taking the issue as seriously as it is.

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On the other hand, the Israelis are at the same time concerned that under a deal that does not lead to a complete cessation of the enrichment of uranium, Iran will be able to continue to develop a nuclear weapon, albeit a bit slower than it is today.

The P5+1 – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – seems to be putting the emphasis right now on getting the Iranians to suspend their enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, the closure of the underground Fordow facility and the removal of the stockpile enriched to 20%.

The reason for the focus on this part of Iran’s nuclear program is that this is the primary concern for Israel at the moment.

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The enrichment of uranium to 20% levels and the activation of the Fordow facility is what has served as Israel’s main justification for a strike in the coming months or before Iran enters the so-called “immunity zone”. If this is no longer the case, the timeline gets pushed back as does a military option.



Israel’s concern though is that while Iran might appear to be complying in the talks that will be held in Baghdad this week, it might be toying with the West.

This fear is based on previous rounds of engagement with Iran over the years which ended in failure. It is also based on a general assessment regarding Iran that after working so hard to get to where it is today, it will not easily walk away.

That is why Israel has been taking the more stringent approach, calling for a complete cessation of enrichment activities, even to the low level of 3.5%.

This could be for two different reasons: One possibility is that by making tougher demands, Israel is hoping that the West will reach something close –like stopping enrichment to 20% – which would be enough. The second possibility is that without a complete stop of enrichment, Israel would still feel justified to employ a military option.

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