Israel is the loser from the Geneva encounter, Shalit tape release
After the hype evaporates from the Geneva encounter between the six powers and Iran and the raw emotions fade from the videotaped sight of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit, Israel is left to take stock of where it stands in relation to its enemies, Iran and the Hamas. The score is Israel – nil; Iran and its ally Hamas – two up.
In the first place, Iran has gained substantially from the Obama administration’s decision to abandon the US demand for Iran to freeze uranium enrichment as the precondition for talks. This US surrender has awarded Tehran the legitimacy for retaining its “nuclear right.”
Then, too, the Geneva conference became the platform for the world powers to agree to hold up sanctions if Iran transferred three-quarters of its low-enriched uranium (1,179,4 tons out of 1,451,4) to a Russian plant for further enrichment to 20 percent grade. The product would then be referred to France for “further technical modifications” – meaning probably a process which would make it unfit for weapons grading.
This arrangement, while seeming to solve this key problem, was in fact a major setback for the American and Israeli campaign to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons for the following reasons:
1. Even that concession is not binding on Tehran and gives it plenty of room to wriggle out and dictate terms. European Union executive Javier Solana, who chaired the Geneva meeting, is the only source claiming its existence as a result of a deal he said he struck with Iran’s negotiator Saeed Jalili. Apart from Solana, no one in Tehran – or even Jalili – has confirmed it.
Solana’s record should be remembered: For seven years, the Spanish diplomat went around discussing the nuclear controversy with Iranian officials, formally and informally, and issuing uniformly optimistic reports on the breakthroughs he achieved. His claims were never confirmed by Tehran, which used the time gained to carry on developing its military program regardless.
2. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accepted the principle of using a third country for processing enrichment uranium, but that was no concession, because he never agreed to stop Iran’s own centrifuges spinning, some of them now home-made. Neither did he clarify Iran’s terms for this arrangement.
Those terms are bound to effectively nullify the value of the project as they did in the past, when Tehran held out for joint management (Iranian-Russian at one point) of a foreign-based plant, to gain full control of the level of enrichment. Now too, Ahmadinejad offers Iranian funding to exercise its control of any foreign facility.
3. The Geneva talks focused on the enriched uranium which the International Atomic Energy Agency knows about – not the amounts concealed from inspection. The discovery of a secret enrichment facility near Qom points to the existence of more hidden plants and stocks.
4. This point may be the most crucial of all. While a big thing is made of uranium enrichment, the world powers are saying nothing about Iran’s “second path program” for developing a plutonium bomb.
debkafile‘s sources have learned a secret plutonium facility is may well be buried in or near the Qom site.
5. The Obama White House no longer talks about sanctions but the “pressure track,” a flexible locution which can be graded up or down, but will be interpreted in Tehran as a softening of the president’s position on its nuclear program.
6. The administration’s earlier bombastic talk of an embargo on refined oils and gasoline sales as the price for continued Iranian stalling and deception has also faded.
7. By giving the Iranians two weeks to open up their Qom facility to international inspection, Obama has in fact given them time to clean out the facility of incriminating evidence. In any case, the outgoing IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei, who arrived in Tehran Saturday, Oct. 3, is famous for his Iranian myopia.
This weakening of international pressure on Iran in return for vague gestures of apparent goodwill has left Israel once again face to face with a regime which continues to outmaneuver and outfox the West in its drive for a nuclear weapon and hegemonic status in the Middle East.
Shalit tape deal is more of the same
The deal for Israel to receive a recent video-tape of the kidnapped Israel soldier Gilead Shalit from a secret Hamas prison in return for 20 female Palestinian prisoners cost Hamas nothing. The gesture proving that the soldier is alive and fit was a great comfort to his family. In fact it gave the Islamists’ tarnished terrorist image a badly-needed lift after more than three years of denying his human rights as their captive.
A communique from the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem Friday, Oct. 2, after the tape was released, holding Hamas responsible for Shalit’s safety and wellbeing, simply played back Hamas’ own assumption of responsibility for their hostage. And even if the Palestinian extremists decide for their own reasons to give up this responsibility, what can Israel do?
debkafile‘s military sources are not even sure that the tape’s release has enhanced the Israeli sergeant’s prospects of a fast-tracked negotiation through German and Egyptian go-betweens and his early release. Hamas is running for election in June 2010 and plans to use its success in obtaining the freedom of up to 1,000 jailed Palestinians, the price they have set for Gilead Shalit, as a major boost for its campaign against Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah. The Islamists will therefore want the prisoner swap to take place as close as possible to voting day to maximize its impact on the Palestinians polling for a new parliament and president.
This election is not a foregone conclusion either. It is contingent on the Hamas-Fatah deal on the date holding up for nine months.
Whatever the outcome of the Palestinian factional give and take, Israel has ended up with a higher price tag for its prisoners in Palestinian terrorist hands: One thousand Palestinians for every Israeli soldier.