Despite optimism, Iran clinging to enrichment

United States and its European allies are reluctantly becoming resigned to the fact that Iran remains adamant that it will retain its capability to enrich uranium.

Rouhani on the phone 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Rouhani on the phone 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran says it is ready to scale back its nuclear activities, yet it remains adamant that it will retain its capability to enrich uranium. And, according to diplomats, the United States and its European allies have resigned themselves to that fact.
The question is how much of that capability and material Iran would retain under a deal.
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz carried the needle to pop that balloon, stating that Israel would accept a deal only if it meant a total dismantling of the nuclear program similar to what was carried out in Libya.
Unfortunately for Israel, it seems that the world powers’ recent optimism over the way talks are going means that some kind of compromise may be in the offing, which would lead to Israel’s isolation in confronting Iran if it saw the deal as unacceptable.
After all, this was one of the objectives of Iran for these negotiations – to split the USIsrael alliance over this issue and take a US attack off the table, leaving Israel alone to attack against the will of the international community. If a deal is reached, an Israeli attack would be viewed as ruining it, and under such circumstances, its allies would be less likely to come to its aid.
Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, who previously served as a US deputy assistant secretary of defense and a senior director at the National Security Council, told the The Jerusalem Post this week: “I think the pressure to cut a deal, even a bad deal, will be immense, because the breaking away from the negotiations will be read either as the abject failure of Obama’s policy or as a prelude to war.”
Chuck Freilich, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a former deputy national security adviser in Israel, told the Post Thursday evening that he thinks a deal is a good opportunity for Israel.
“Anyone who thinks there will be a knockout blow and Iran will end up with no nuclear capabilities at all is being unrealistic,” he said, adding, “the military option would buy us only around two to three years at most, and at a heavy price while a reasonable diplomatic deal would at least get us that much and maybe more.”
Israel should be willing to compromise and “settle for less than a perfect deal,” said Freilich, noting that “given the circumstances, it is better than the alternatives.”
For him, the US and the EU also have an interest in making a deal that would not allow Iran to attain nuclear weapons.
Freilich considers Steinitz’s position – that a complete dismantling would be required – desirable but unrealistic.
Iran will not agree to end its program, he said, and therefore a strict deal, which would include inspections and a low limit to Iranian enrichment as well as an acceptable deal on the plutonium reactor in Arak, would buy Israel perhaps even more time than would an attack.
Dore Gold, the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the former Israeli ambassador to the UN told the Post that "any reduction of the sanctions regime could lead to its collapse and for that reason the Iranians  are determined to use diplomacy to advance its erosion."
The more fundamental question, he said, is if Iran is really about to change or, from all indications, Iran plans on continuing its activities on the ground in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and across the Middle East. Iran remains a power seeking regional hegemony, he said.
Asked if Israel would be isolated if a deal it disliked was concluded, Gold responded that even though Israel is on the forefront of public discussion, the Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia are also very concerned.
Prof. Alex Bligh, director of the Middle East Research Center at Ariel University, told the Post that Israel’s position is simple: Iran cannot have any possible way to put together even one nuclear warhead.
He says that the continuing negotiations are a repetition of what we saw with North Korea, where the world powers allowed the nuclear program to continue.
“Israel is the only sane voice in this context,” said Bligh.
In any case, Iran would violate any agreement, he said pointing out that such a deal would be “partial and meaningless.”