A bird in the hand: Securing an acceptable Iran deal in the long run

Despite his best efforts, Netanyahu was not successful in convincing the US to regroup and return with an aggressive agenda aimed at dismantling Iran’s very capability to produce a nuclear weapon.

July 5, 2015 21:20
4 minute read.
Vienna, Austria

Representatives of EU, US, Britain, France, Russia, Germany, China and Iran meet for another round of the P5+1 powers and Iran talks in Vienna, Austria on June 12, 2015.. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/JOE KLAMAR)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For a symbolic $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user uxperience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew, Ivrit
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Repor
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


Since the interim framework deal between the US-led P5+1 and Iran was announced in April, Israel has come out strongly against what it views as a “bad deal,” one that grants international legitimacy to Iran’s nuclear program. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked time and again, Israel is not against a diplomatic solution. In his speech in March to Congress, Netanyahu noted that “the alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal” and that “no country has a greater stake than Israel in a good deal that peacefully removes this threat.” Rather, Israel sees in the emerging deal a capitulation to Iranian bargaining tactics when the US position was at its strongest, and a grave misunderstanding of the Iranian regime’s intentions.

Despite his best efforts, Netanyahu was not successful in convincing the US to regroup and return with a more aggressive agenda aimed at dismantling Iran’s very capability to produce a nuclear weapon. Although the June 30 deadline has passed, an agreement is expected within the course of the next month. The details of the impending deal are mostly familiar by now.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

As retired Israeli general Mike Herzog noted in the Financial Times, “The choice [now] is not between a good deal and a bad deal. A good deal – permanently rolling back Iran’s nuclear capacity... is no longer possible.” Herzog and others go on to say that what is left is the choice between an “acceptable” deal and an outright “bad deal.”

To be fair, the American negotiators were more determined and sober than most critics expected.

See the latest opinion pieces on our Opinion & Blogs Facebook page
Despite its flaws, the emerging deal does have some positive elements, which include a far-reaching verification and inspection regime, removal of most of Iran’s enriched uranium with a limit on future enrichment (at least for the next decade), a freeze on roughly half of Iran’s 10,000 working centrifuges (20,000 total) and the neutralization of Iran’s nascent plutonium track in Arak. Moreover, US President Barack Obama made clear he will “snap back” sanctions if Iran is found to be violating its end.

At this point, it is far too late in the game for Israel to influence the outcome of the agreement. To be sure, insiders involved in Israel’s efforts against Iran’s nuclear program over the past decade believe the US folded too soon to Iran’s bluff. However, given the lack of resolve in Washington, Israel would be wise to make the most of the current situation and take the bird in the hand rather than look for that elusive second bird in the bush. This means working closely with the US to help maintain a broad and galvanized coalition to enforce the agreement over the next 10-15 years. Easier said than done.

So what will this include?

Proper verification

Obama talked a tough game regarding the inspection regime, but as those of us who’ve done this professionally know, it’s really hard, and the Iranians will inevitably cheat. The US, UK, France, Canada, Germany, Israel and others, who worked to build the pressure on Iran, must stay the course as far as inspections and continue to produce detailed intelligence to expose Iranian foul play.

Stand strong with sanctions

The carefully crafted linchpin of the Obama-led soft war to pressure Iran to the table is the only leverage left (military action being off the table). The US must insist sanctions only be lifted pending real cooperation and progress by Iran in fulfilling its part of the deal.

Snap-back sanctions

“Snapping back” sanctions will be much harder than it sounds. The US should devise a process now, together with allies, to be able to put sanctions back in place on three levels should Iran be caught cheating: the unilateral US level, which were the most biting; the multi-lateral level led by America’s key allies around the world, also highly effective; and the UNSC level, which gave legitimacy for the other two levels.

This will be difficult to achieve with China and Russia involved.

Rebuild deterrence

The US must rebuild a credible military deterrence, eroded by President Obama’s own policies and rhetoric. If the US isn’t willing to consider a strike, Israel should convince the US to float its own military option, a “good-cop/ bad-cop” routine used with great utility by previous US administrations.

Re-build US-Israel relations

Relations between the two countries were severely damaged on a strategic level by both sides. Israel serves as a natural balance against Iranian aggression in the region and Israel was crucial over the years to helping the US prevent Iran from producing a bomb. If the two countries have any daylight between them, Israel loses influence over US policy and the US loses a crucial ally that supplies significant intelligence, interception capability and creative ideas adopted by the US over the years to counter Iran.

If Israel works on these levels with the US, the current Iran deal, which may never be two birds, can at least be a bird in the hand and not just a few tail feathers.

The author is a fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem. He is a Major (res.) in Israeli Defense Intelligence, and has served in various foreign policy and national security roles within the IDF over the past decade.

Related Content

June 24, 2018
June 25, 2018: Listening to the 'other'