Emboldened by certainty that the US and Israel had given up on attacking its nuclear program, Iran’s atomic energy chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani felt free to heap abuse on the International Atomic Energy Agency. Addressing the IAEA’s annual meeting in Vienna Saturday, Sept. 17, the Iranian official accused the watchdog of a cynical approach and mismanagement, being influenced by “certain states” and infiltration by “terrorists and saboteurs.”
The Iranian official bald-facedly turned charges that Iran is a major sponsor of terrorism world wide against its accusers in the West, bolstered further by the row between the Obama administration and Israel over whether or not to go to war against Iran. Saturday, the Iranian media highlighted the US President Barack Obama’s rebuff of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over “red lines” for Iran – encouraging news for Iran’s leaders.
He was further encouraged to take liberties by the propitiatory offer by the IAEA director Yukiya Amano to “intensify dialogue” with Iran despite the lack of progress so far in clarifying concerns about its nuclear program. And Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, was more than ready to meet Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator in Istanbul, again Tuesday, Sept. 18, for an effort to restart nuclear talks between six world powers and Iran – even though Tehran had systematically blocked progress in the last rounds.
Iran’s leaders must have felt they were completely out of the woods when they heard US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice comment to CNN Sunday night: “They do not have a nuclear weapon. Our shared intelligence assessments are that there is still a considerable time and space before they will have a nuclear weapon should they make the decision to go for that.”
The Israeli prime minister faces a cascade of criticism from the West for warning that time is running out for Israel to disrupt Iran’s nuclear bomb program. He tried a rebuttal by going on US airwaves Sunday to warn that Iran was only six or seven months from having “90 percent" of what it needed to make an atomic bomb. For the first time, he offered his government’s definition of the level of Iranian nuclear development that he would regard as dangerous: one bomb’s worth of enriched uranium, even if it required additional work to actually make a weapon.
He implied that Iran would cross that line soon. “You know, they’re in the last 20 yards, and you can’t let them cross that goal line," Netanyahu said on the NBC News program “Meet the Press."
But his voice fell on deaf ears. Both the president and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have made it clear that America would not bow to any demands for red lines on if and when to attack Iran. Former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk repeated this, although he did step out of the approved Obama script to predict a US-Iranian military confrontation over the nuclear issue in 2013.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel lined up behind Washington: She said a nuclear Iran is a threat not just for Israel but the entire world, but there is still time for diplomacy before a decision to resort to military action becomes necessary.
Tehran has every reason for self-congratulation: The Obama administration is instigating a fresh international effort to inject momentum into nuclear diplomacy with Iran, despite the fiascos of three and-a-half years of fruitless talks and the failure of tough economic sanctions to slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.
If anything, Iran was encouraged to step on the pedal.
It must be presumed therefore that the fresh diplomatic impetus is not meant to stop Iran but stop Netanyahu going through with any plans for attacking Iran’s nuclear bomb project.
It was therefore as clear as day to Iran’s atomic energy chief that the international cards are stacked against Israel – not his own government.