The Russians appear upbeat about the prospects of a final nuclear agreement with Iran.
As Mikhail Uliyanov, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Arms Control and Nonproliferation, said Thursday, May 1: Moscow is “confident that Iran’s unprecedentedly constructive cooperation with the IAEA [nuclear watchdog] as well as with the Six Power panel, gives grounds to hope for a successful outcome of the talks on a comprehensive solution to Iran’s nuclear issue before the deadline of July 20.”
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources, which have for the past two months reported on the rapid progress made in the direct secret talks between Iranian and American emissaries, say now that the prospects of a deal were enhanced by the Obama administration’s acceptance of Iranian terms.
Those terms would allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold nation, but not build an atomic bomb.
Senior administration officials, including President Barack Obama, have held to the mantra that the US will not allow Iran to produce a nuclear bomb. What no one is saying is how the US will back up this pledge. The reality would have to be tougher sanctions than ever before and the exercise of a military option as a last resort.
Underlying Obama’s policy is his trust in the vows given by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani that their regime does not, and never did, intend building a nuclear weapon.
Three expert views on a nuclear deal with Iran
Three nuclear intelligence experts, one American and two Israeli, have been busy analyzing Obama’s motivation in allowing Iran to become a nuclear threshold state.
One is Robert Einhorn of the Brookings Institute think tank, a former special adviser to the US Secretary of State on nonproliferation and arms control and also once a top Obama administration official on its Iran desk. He recently authored a publication entitled “Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement."
In Einhorn’s view, a deal between Iran and the P5+1 nations would essentially allow Tehran to retain the capability to produce the material necessary for a bomb, i.e., full fuel cycle. Theoretically, Iran would be able to produce a bomb should it decide to do so. But the agreement would include the most sophisticated controls and monitoring that would instantly spot any breakthrough in Iran’s nuclear program.
At the same time, Iran’s current capability would be greatly reduced, so that from the moment of a breach and its identification, the US will have enough time to respond with very severe sanctions and with force too, if necessary.
One expert says Israel has no choice but a military strike
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror, until recently a close adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Director of Israel’s National Security Council, published a working paper shortly after Einhorn’s report came out. Its title needs no elaboration: “Israel Cannot Accept the Emerging Accord between the US and Iran.”
His paper concludes by saying: “…with such a flimsy agreement [as seems to be emerging], I wonder what will be left of Western commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And Israel will have to draw its own conclusions.”
In short, the emerging accord will leave Israel with no choice but to launch a military hit on Iran’s nuclear program. Asked in previous interviews with the Israeli media if he thinks Netanyahu will eventually give the order to strike Iran, Amidror answered with a single word: “yes.”
Taking the middle ground between the two experts, former IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Yadlin, published a third treatise, heading it “US and Israel – Possibility of Formulating an Outline for a Final Agreement with Iran.”
Yadlin spent most of the years 2009-2011 in Washington as unofficial liaison official on Iran between the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem and the White House.
His proposal is for Washington and Jerusalem to get together in advance on the proposals and concessions the US plans to present for a comprehensive nuclear accord.
The accord pushed by Washington will not force substantive change in Iran’s program
Yadlin calls for a third dimension, time, to be added to the deal, namely a “significant lengthening of the time Iran requires for developing nuclear weapons (should it decide to do so), for expelling the nuclear inspectors and for withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).”
The former IDF intelligence chief bases his argument on US Secretary of State John Kerry’s March testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that Iran was only months away from developing a nuclear weapon.
Yadlin finds that Kerry’s estimate marked a drastic departure from the standing US assessment which was based on President Obama’s statement in a 2013 interview that Iran could have the bomb within a year.
Yadlin partly accounts for Kerry’s accelerated timeline by limiting it to the time required for enriching uranium up to military grade, barring unexpected bottlenecks in the system.
Another, less charitable, reason for the US turnabout would be Washington’s need to sell the comprehensive nuclear accord with Iran as a “good deal,” even though it doesn’t dismantle Iran’s nuclear weaponizing infrastructure.
The US could then claim that a deal was needed urgently to cut short Iran’s proximity to a bomb before it was too late to stop.
In reality, though, the accord the Obama administration is pushing will not force Iran to make any substantive changes to its program.