Analysis: Living with a nuclear Iran

Analysis Living with a

Let's assume, for argument's sake, that tomorrow Iran announces it is prepared to enrich uranium in Russia, is willing to abide by all UN resolutions on its nuclear program and will permit IAEA supervision in all of its nuclear facilities. While the Americans, Russians and Europeans would likely be thrilled at their apparent diplomatic success, Israel would be left with a decision - can it live with Iran as a threshold nuclear country? While speculative, this scenario is not all that detached from reality. On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that an agreement was in the works between Teheran and six world powers for Russia to enrich uranium for Iran. The debate within Israel is whether such a deal is something the country can accept. Iran already has the know-how to manufacture a nuclear weapon. It has the long-range ballistic missile delivery system and is enriching uranium to produce the necessary fissionable material. According to the IAEA, it already has more than a ton of low-enriched uranium that could be converted into 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, the amount needed for one nuclear bomb. The question is whether Israel can live with such a situation - where Iran has the know-how and all of the material but, because of diplomatic and political considerations, decides not to make use of it. This is similar to the situation with Japan, which could quickly develop a nuclear weapon but decides not to do so for several reasons, including its World War II history but also the American nuclear umbrella which protects it. According to Ilan Mizrachi, a former head of the National Security Council and deputy head of the Mossad, Israel would not be able to oppose a deal under which Iran's uranium is enriched in Russia. "Israel will have difficulty not agreeing to a deal under which the enrichment is done outside of Iran," Mizrachi said Monday. "With the right control and supervision, we might be able to live with it." This is assuming that Iran agrees to open all its nuclear sites, to come clean on additional nuclear facilities, like the enrichment facility that was discovered last month near Qom, and agrees to create safeguards and increase supervision. Such a deal would be lauded by the Obama administration, which is desperately seeking a diplomatic victory, particularly in light of the failure on the North Korean front and the difficulties it is encountering in Iraq and Afghanistan. But as Mizrachi admits, even under such a deal the possibility that Iran will continue to develop a nuclear weapon covertly would still exist. "If that happens, we will always have to live with this question mark," he said. Israel, though, might not be willing to. On one hand, Israeli officials have in recent weeks toned down the rhetoric on Iran - Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it does not pose an existential threat to Israel - but this is mainly due to the sensitivity of the time and so as not to appear as an obstacle to US President Barack Obama's diplomatic moves. Prime Ministers Binyamin Netanyahu believes that he was elected to prevent Iran from going nuclear. If the deal with Russia goes through, his raison d'être may require updating.