Saudi King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were not won over by President Barack Obama's pledges in personal phone calls to the two Middle East leaders last week not to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. Their skepticism only grew.
This development in the Iranian nuclear controversy finds two of the three leaders trapped in a credibility gap between their public pronouncements and the Iranian reality which has long overtaken them both.
Obama’s oft-repeated pledge is canceled out by most Western nuclear experts, who are convinced that Iran managed to advance to a capacity for producing four nuclear bombs, under cover of protracted diplomacy. In their view, the current first-step deal, followed by a comprehensive accord in six months' time, are merely an attempt by the six world powers to hold Iran back from expanding its arsenal any further.
The US president’s avowals are therefore hollow.
Saudi princes and officials have often said that if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon or reaches the threshold of this capacity, the oil kingdom will not lag behind.
All Riyadh needs to do now, say debkafile’s Middle East sources, is to invoke the agreement signed with Islamabad in 2004, under which Saudi funding was provided for Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program in return for some of the bombs or warheads produced to await Saudi Arabia’s call for their delivery, complete with the appropriate missiles.
Pakistan denies the existence of this transaction.
However, military and intelligence experts in the West are certain that although this transfer has not yet taken place, it will soon, in the light of the edge Iran has gained in its current negotiations with the West.
Therefore, Obama’s phone conversation with Abdullah was more concerned with keeping a nuclear bomb out of Saudi hands than out of Iran’s.
Since 2008, the Israeli prime minister has vowed time and time again to prevent Iran reaching a nuclear threshold, making it clear that the Israeli armed forces would be sent into action – if need be.
So his credibility deficit is on a par with Obama’s.
At the Western Wall, Thursday, Nov. 11, on Hanukkah eve, Binyamin Netanyahu paraphrased a popular festival song to declare: “We came to drive out the darkness and the largest darkness that threatens the world today is a nuclear Iran!”
What did he mean by those words, if not an intention to exercise Israel’s military option to “drive out the darkness?”
Maj. Gen. (res) Yakov Amidror – until recently National Security Adviser to the prime minister – wrote last week in The New York Times that Iran already has enough enriched uranium to make four bombs. “The Geneva deal, in short, did not address the nuclear threat at all,” he wrote
Iran reached that point more than a year ago, so how to take the repeated pledges by the prime minister to “act itself, by itself” to prevent this happening?
Prime Minister Netanyahu has carefully avoided presenting the Knesset or the people with a clear picture of where Israel stands in relation to Iran’s nuclear program, has never laid out his policy on the question or depicted what the future may hold.
And so his “military option” has progressively waned in credibility both at home and abroad.
In Obama’s phone call to Netanyahu, debkafile’s intelligence and Washington sources report that the president described at length the US intelligence measures to be applied for verifying Iran’s compliance with the Geneva deal. He said that its findings would be referred to Israeli intelligence for a second assessment.
Obama also suggested a visit to Washington by an Israeli military intelligence delegation of nuclear experts to finalize the details of US-Israeli collaboration for verifying that Iran was living up to its commitments under the near accords.
When this US-Israeli dialogue reached their ears, the Iranians were furious. Thursday, Nov. 28, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, dropping the genial mien he assumed in Geneva, reverted to harsh Islamic Republican-speak when he said: “Never such a thing will happen and definitely we will not be in the room in which representatives from the Zionist regime will have a presence!”
It was clear that Tehran would boycott the technical discussion on the details of the Geneva accord if Israeli experts were to sit in a side room, a proposal which might also be extended to Saudi Arabia, as the two Middle East nations most directly at risk from an Iranian nuclear capacity.
Then, Friday, President Hassan Rouhani weighed in to further devalue the Geneva accord’s international worth. In an interview with The Financial Times, he said Iran would never dismantle its atomic facilities. Asked whether this was a "red line" for the Islamic republic, Rouhani replied: "100 per cent."
In other words, not only Netanyahu but Obama too can forget about any hopes they may have entertained of Iran shutting down its Fordo enrichment plant, or holding up the construction of its heavy water plant in Arak for the production of plutonium.
Tuesday, Nov, 26, two days after the six powers signed their first-step nuclear accord with Iran, Netanyahu called the security cabinet into special session which went on into the night to hear and debate briefings from IDF intelligence (AMAN) officers.
No word has leaked from that session, but some sources claimed anonymously that the ministers received the most optimistic outlook they had heard in years.
Before giving weight to such possible optimism, debkafile’s analysts recall AMAN’s 2011 prediction that Bashar Assad’s downfall was imminent, and its misreading of the situations prevailing in Washington and Tehran.