Iran’s path to the bomb

The West has misunderstood, or otherwise turned a blind eye to, Iran’s strategy, devised to buy time while Tehran becomes a nuclear power.

Iran's heavy-water production plant in Arak, southwest of Tehran. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran's heavy-water production plant in Arak, southwest of Tehran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As nuclear negotiations resume this week between Iran and world powers, it is becoming increasingly clear that any deal signed will be considered ill-conceived by Israel. According to most estimations, the focus of the talks has shifted from dismantling Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, as demanded by Jerusalem, to creating a verification network that would, ideally, grant inspectors unfettered access to Iranian sites to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear operations.
In “Inspections: The Weak Link in a Nuclear Agreement with Iran,” Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and currently an adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, questions “the advisability of erecting a comprehensive agreement with Iran that is so highly dependent upon the efficacy of its inspection system and the willingness of Iran to agree to what some analysts call unprecedented levels of transparency.”
The drawbacks should be evident, especially when considering Iran’s ongoing refusal to grant the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to its Parchin facility, where the UN nuclear watchdog believes Tehran has conducted research into the development of atomic weapons. That the underground Fordow nuclear plant remained unknown to the West for years casts further doubt on both the Islamic Republic’s trustworthiness and the ability of monitors to keep tabs on the whole of its nuclear activities. The fact that US Secretary of State John Kerry recently revealed that Iran’s breakout capacity stands at a mere two months should alone obviate any such deal, as this window is surely too short for comfort.
Nonetheless, it appears as though the prospects of reversing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear progress by significantly reducing the number of its centrifuges is off the table.
In the prescient words of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, the “talks are not about nuclear capability...they are about Iranian integrity and dignity.”
But the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism is undeserving of respect.
Iran continues to fuel the horror in Syria, and now has boots on the ground in Iraq with the aim there, in conjunction with local Shi’ite fighters, almost certainly being to carve out an Iranian protectorate.
Moreover, the widely held belief that Iran opposes the Sunni terror group Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) is tenuous at best, with recent reports suggesting the organization may well have been spawned by Tehran. As the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs’ Pinhas Inbari recently pointed out, “The more time passes, the more this notion of a link between ISIS, Syrian and Iranian intelligence has become fixed in the minds of leading Arab analysts.”
To support this claim, Inbari highlights a February 2012 US Treasury Department document, which states that ISIS’s precursor, “al-Qaida in Iraq,” was provided with money and arms by Iran. He also raises the intriguing possibility that Iran facilitated ISIS’s advances in Iraq in order to force the US to deepen its coordination with Tehran.
As journalist Melanie Phillips recently noted in these pages, “The Iranian leadership [has] suggested the price of its ‘help’ in ‘stabilizing’ Iraq would be a deal over its nuclear program.”
And this is the key point: The road to an Iranian bomb is paved with instability.
Iran’s carefully crafted plan is two-tiered: foment widespread regional unrest, thereby removing the focus on its illicit nuclear work, while concurrently convincing the West, which shuns chaos in favor of stability, that the only solution is to engage, rather than defeat, Iran.
And it has worked.
The West has misunderstood, or otherwise turned a blind eye to, Iran’s strategy, devised to buy time while Tehran becomes a nuclear power, which in turn will allow it to pursue its ultimate ambition of spreading its Islamic “revolution” throughout the world.
The ramifications of an expansionist, nuclear-armed Iran are devastating.
Even without the bomb, in the near future Iran will effectively control territory spanning from eastern Iraq to southern Lebanon. The so-called Shi’ite crescent warned of years ago by Jordan’s King Abdullah is, for all intents and purposes, a fait accompli.
An Iran with atomic bombs can be expected to also set its sights on Sunni Gulf states, including Kuwait and Bahrain, where its meddling during the Arab Spring prompted Saudi Arabia to deploy troops to the country. In fact, Tehran appears to be on a collision course with Riyadh (which, parenthetically, is alleged to have pre-paid atomic weapons waiting for it in Pakistan).
Were tensions to explode between the mullahs and the House of Saud, the entire region could be drawn into a bloody conflict not unlike the Sunni-Shi’ite proxy war currently being waged in Syria, although the effects of a direct clash between the leading purveyors of these competing forms of Islam would almost certainly be much worse.
Like it or not, such a prospect would force the hand of the United States, which could not sit idly by as its allies, as well as the global oil economy, became endangered.
It is possible that an emboldened Russia would likewise become involved, at the very least as an arms supplier, and perhaps even ascendant China, if only to protect its growing interests in the region.
Israel, undoubtedly, would be targeted by its enemies and thus dragged into the fighting.
This is but a snapshot of the bleak picture facing the Middle East if Iran goes nuclear, and the Obama administration in particular is seemingly oblivious.
While the US president reiterated last week – this time to his outgoing Israeli counterpart – that he remains committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Obama’s words can no longer be trusted given his willingness (eagerness?) to treat a rogue regime, ideologically committed to the West’s destruction, as a friend.
Hence the recent dispatch to Washington of Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, to spell out Jerusalem’s positions perhaps for the last time.
Speaking to Israel Radio prior to his departure, Steinitz made clear that a good deal “will not allow the Iranians to remain a nuclear threshold state.”
“Our position is that an agreement needs to be based not only on supervision and verification, but on dismantling infrastructure,” he affirmed.
Prime Minister Netanyahu likewise weighed in on Sunday, granting interviews to major television networks in each of the P5+1 countries.
“Inspectors can be deceived,” he warned, before advocating for an agreement along the lines of the Syrian one, which “remove[s] what’s not destroyed.”
But given Obama’s ongoing rapprochement with Iran, Israel’s expectations are surely being tempered. In fact, it would be surprising if Jerusalem was not already intensifying covert preparations for “plan B.” What this entails could be revealed as early as July 21, the day after the deadline for a nuclear agreement is set to expire. Only then will it become known if Netanyahu is serious about preventing an Iranian bomb – and the lengths to which he is willing to go in order to do so.
The author is a correspondent for i24News.