Analysis: Iran a threat even after Israeli attack

Israel is purposely ambiguous about its intentions, at the risk of isolation from the international community.

Iran revolutionary guards_390 (photo credit: Raheb Homavandi/Reuters)
Iran revolutionary guards_390
(photo credit: Raheb Homavandi/Reuters)
In 1981, Israel successfully bombed the Osirak nuclear plant outside of Baghdad. It was not until the First Gulf War in 1991, however, that Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of nuclear capability was stopped for good.
Uzi Arad, who served as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser until last year, mentioned this short history lesson on Tuesday at a security conference in Herzliya.
Arad seemed to be hinting at two different situations. On the one hand, even if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities, it will not be the end of the the nuclear saga, a message that senior IDF commanders have stressed numerous times over the years as a way of explaining that Israel’s military option is limited in its scope.
On the other hand, the Iraqi model is meant to explain how, even if a deal is reached with the West, Iran could remain a threat and challenge to Israel for years to come.
On Wednesday, the P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – will sit down with Iran in Baghdad in what seems to be turning into a positive atmosphere following the apparent success of International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano in Tehran on Monday.
While the Iranians might be willing to open up all of their facilities – including Parchin, where alleged military activity takes place – this does not mean that they will quickly shut down their centrifuges and surrender their stockpile of enriched uranium.
Israel’s position on a possible deal is a mix of genuine disappointment and a bit of poker. The genuine part is concern that Iran is really fooling the West with a deal which would allow it to continue its program without pressure and tougher sanctions.
The poker game is part of Israel’s longstanding strategy when it comes to Iran – to beat the war drums, present more stringent demands and hope that something close to what it is demanding will be met.
While an Israeli representative will not be sitting around the table in Baghdad, its demands will overshadow the talks for different reasons. The P5+1 members do not want Israel to attack due to concerns over the effect such a strike will have on the global energy market as well as regional stability. The Iranians do not want an attack which could destroy or significantly set back their nuclear program.
The main question is how a deal that stops Iran enriching uranium to 20 percent impacts Israeli attack plans.
On the one hand, Israel has warned that with the activation of the Fordow facility near Qom, Iran is entering an “immunity zone” that could make an Israeli strike ineffective. If the facility is not closed down under a deal with the West then an Israeli strike might still be relevant.
However, if it is closed and the 20% enrichment is stopped, Israel might be able to push back its timeline and put its military option on the back burner.
Israel is purposely being ambiguous about its intentions. It is doing so, however, at the risk of becoming isolated as the entire world celebrates the success of diplomacy.