With Iran barely months away from “breakout,” PM Naftali Bennett stated on Monday, Nov. 22, that “Israel won’t be bound” by any revival of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.… and will maintain its freedom of action.” He also pointed to the widening dispute with the Biden administration on Iran, saying, “It is possible that there will be disputes with the best of our friends.”
Opposition lawmaker Tzahi Hanegbi has estimated that Israel has no more than 3-5 months to stop Iran reaching a nuclear threshold. As a former confidante of ex-PM Binyamin Netanyahu and former chairman of a key parliamentary committee, Hanegbi spoke from knowledge. Other mavens are more pessimistic. According to The New York Times estimate on Nov. 21, Iran is “somewhere between three weeks and a few months” from breakout – i.e., having enough material for a bomb – “which would change the geopolitical calculation throughout the Middle East.”
Another knowledgeable opinion came from recently retired Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, who directed a string of alleged sabotage strikes earlier this year for disrupting Iran’s progress towards a nuke. In a speech on Sunday, he said: “I think Israel must have the capability to fight [Iran’s nuclear program] alone, like we did twice in the past in Iraq and Syria.” In his view, Iran’s 60pc enrichment of uranium, a short step from weapons grade, could be halted by bombing its underground enrichment plants in Fordow and Natanz.
The NYT stepped in once again on Monday, quoting Israeli officials this time as revealing a bunker=busting capability that “would obviate the need for the kind of help they sought from the bush administration 13 years ago.”.
Accentuating the Biden administration’s disapproval of lone Israeli action, the NYT again quoted US officials as warning that “repeated Israeli attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities (a reference to the sabotage strikes) would be “counterproductive and might be encouraging Tehran to speed up and improve its nuclear program.”
Tehran was finally persuaded to return to the table in Vienna on Nov. 29. However, President Joe Biden’s initial vision of achieving by diplomacy an improved version of the 2015 deal has gone by the board. In any case, only five of the original signatories – Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany – will face Iran; the US will be present in a separate room.
In a last effort to salvage the last remnant of the original 2015 nuclear deal, comprehensive inspection, Rafael M. Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, arrived in Tehran on Monday. He warned that the watchdog was “going blind” due to the disabling of cameras and sensors at Iran’s key nuclear sites due either to willful sabotage or disrepair.
As to a diplomatic breakthrough, Iranian officials have made it clear that “negotiations” for Tehran is another word for sanctions relief. Tehran will insist on casting off the crippling sanctions while keeping its program running unhindered towards the goal of a threshold capacity. That goal may be just weeks away. Therefore, all those solemn declarations that Iran will not be allowed to attain a nuclear bomb and President Bi8den’s assurance that if diplomacy fails, “there are other options,” will soon face their ultimate test. They will melt away like hollow bombast unless Israel gets it together in time and acts – either alone, or in alignment with its “best friend,”