Analysis: Last chance to stop Iran non-militarily

IAEA report means Israel will likely move military strike to back burner, will instead focus on getting the world to impose sanctions on Iran.

IAEA meeting_311 (photo credit: Stringer Austria / Reuters)
IAEA meeting_311
(photo credit: Stringer Austria / Reuters)
After years of being accused of crying wolf, Israel was vindicated on Tuesday with the publication of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s damning report on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
While the report shied away from saying that Iran was actively building a bomb, it did conclude that Iran was developing a nuclear-weapon design and conducting extensive research and tests that could only be relevant for nuclear weapons.
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The report shows first of all that IAEA chief Yukiya Amano of Japan is far different than his predecessor Mohamed Elbaradei of Egypt, whom Israel accused of turning a blind eye to Tehran’s ongoing and persistent nuclear violations. A lot of the information revealed in the report has been known to the IAEA and member states for a number of years, but was not released due to political considerations.
The report also means that for the time being, an Israeli military strike will likely move to the back burner, and Jerusalem will focus instead on getting the world to impose crippling sanctions on Iran, not crippled sanctions like those that have already been passed.
This would include banning business with the Central Bank of Iran, as well as restrictions on work with the Iranian energy sector – both moves believed to be capable of creating a severe economic crisis in Iran that could, in turn, lead the regime to reconsider its current course of action.
Formulating and passing sanctions takes time, though – at least a couple of months. It takes another few months to see if they are having an effect.
Israel will have to be patient.
One problem is going to be the expected Russian and Chinese opposition to a UN Security Council resolution on sanctions, but even if that happens, Israel believes that countries that pass sanctions on an individual basis could also have the desired effect.
For that reason, Israel is also moving out of the spotlight and wants to see what the world will do with the report, which provides a fascinating analysis and chronicle of Iran’s work over the past two decades to develop a nuclear weapon.
It highlights the different organizations and offices in Iran that have worked on the weapons program based on hundreds of documents provided by member states such as Israel, the US, England, Germany and France.
While it is difficult to imagine the phone calls Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will have to make now that the IAEA has released its report, he will have to get over the gaffe by US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Cannes last week, which was revealed on Tuesday.
“I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama, who reportedly replied, “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you.”
On any day, a prime minister’s relationship with foreign leaders is an issue of intrigue.
For that reason, for example, the Israeli press traditionally always discusses the so-called “chemistry” between the prime minister and the US president after their meetings and whether they hit it off or not.
Obama’s and Sarkozy’s remarks, though, are even more worrying, considering that following the report’s publication, Israel will be calling on the world to take immediate action.
If Sarkozy cannot bear Netanyahu, and Obama appears to suffer from his own frequent dealings with the prime minister, then there is room to ask how they will all work together to stop Iran.
Hopefully the answer is that even leaders who don’t like each other know how to overcome their personal differences for the sake of national interests and world security.
The sense in Jerusalem is that they will, and that regardless of what Obama and Sarkozy might think of Netanyahu, the publication of the IAEA report is understood by all to be possibly the last real chance to stop Iran with non-military means.
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