Barring the IDF, Netanyahu’s last resort against possible Obama détente with Iran is US Congress

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at his first news conference Tuesday, Aug. 6, said his government would not discuss his country’s nuclear program with the world powers under pressure. No sooner had he spoken than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shot back: The only thing that worked in the past was pressure, so the answer now is increased pressure.

It is an open secret that what Rouhani is after is the lifting of US and European sanctions which are crippling Iran’s economy. He is not altogether unrealistic: Only last February, the Six World Powers made Tehran an offer to gradually ease sanctions if Iran stopped enriching uranium – even temporarily.
That was before he was elected. Now, Rouhani wants more dramatic concessions on sanctions to prove his worth to the Iranian people and assure them he will be alleviating their economic hardships very soon.

The Obama administration is sharply divided by the debate for and against removing sanctions. Proponents argue that Rouhani, who is perceived in the West as a moderate, should be encouraged because he may be the man to eventually persuade Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to freeze Iran’s nuclear program.

He succeeded once before, in October 2003, when he was Iran’s senior negotiator, they maintain – forgetting that Tehran was then gripped by fear that the US army, which had invaded Iraq in March of that year, would turn on next-door Iran and wipe out its nuclear program.
After a pause of less than a year, when Khamenei and Rouhani saw the US army becoming mired in Iraq and therefore no threat, they switched their nuclear weapons program back on at full power.

Judging from this precedent, Netanyahu advised a visiting delegation of 36 US Members of Congress in Jerusalem not to heed Rouhani’s demand to drop the pressure, i.e. sanctions. Nothing else works, he said.
At the same time, the prime minister, like his American guests, is well aware that pressure in the form of sanctions never slowed Iran’s race for a nuclear bomb, but rather accelerated it.

On Monday, Aug. 5, The Wall Street Journal divulged a fact know for six months to Israeli and US intelligence communities – that in mid-2014, Iran will finish building a heavy water reactor at Arak in northwestern Iran and be able to produce plutonium for nuclear bombs from the reactor’s spent fuel rods, a method used by India, Pakistan and North Korea. Plutonium for bomb-making will therefore be available sooner than enriched uranium.

However, a large surface reactor is an easier target to hit than the underground facilities at Fordo that house Iran's uranium-enrichment facilities.
This was behind the thinking of an unnamed senior Israeli official, when he commented to the media on Tuesday that Israel was capable of attacking the Iranian nuclear program on its own without American back-up – albeit less effectively than an operation by the US or with American operational support. He meant that Israel could destroy key components of Iran’s nuclear program, but not disable it entirely.

debkafile’s military and intelligence sources find in these remarks a growing acceptance in Israel’s political and military officials that President Obama’s reluctance to involve the US in military action in Syria applies equally to Iran. Netanyahu is going to great lengths to present Israel’s case to members of Congress, whom he sees as his last resort for winning Obama around. He figures that even if the US President is resolved to go easy with Rouhani and lift sanctions, Congress will block him.
This is of course no more than a holding tactic and therefore susceptible to compromise at some point.

Its weakness lies in the fact that not only is Obama balking at military options, so too is Netanyahu. The Iranians, including their new president Rouhani, who monitor every twitch of every US and Israeli political and military muscle, will understand that for now, they can keep going forward with their nuclear plans without fear of interference.
 

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