Will Netanyahu Go for a Military Strike Now that Iran Is a Nuclear Threshold State?
This week, two former US Secretaries of State seriously addressed the wider implications of the Geneva accord: Henry Kissinger (1973-77) and George Shultz (1982-89) co-authored a Wall Street Journal article published on Dec. 3, in which they wrote: “The next six months of diplomacy will be decisive in determining whether the Geneva agreement opens the door to a potential diplomatic breakthrough or to ratifying a major strategic setback.”
Defining setback, they said: “Standing by itself the interim agreement leaves Iran, hopefully only temporarily, in the position of a nuclear threshold power – a country that can achieve a military nuclear capability within months of its choosing to do so. A final agreement leaving this threshold capacity unimpaired would institutionalize the Iran nuclear threat, with profound consequences for global nonproliferation policy and the stability of the Middle East.”
Two days earlier, speaking in different parts of the world, Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA and NSA chief and Gen. (res) Amos Yadlin, former AMAN (IDF intelligence) commander, were nonetheless of one mind.
Hayden said that since the Obama administration had consented to Tehran enriching uranium, therefore, “Iran is a nuclear threshold state.”
Yadlin remarked that Iran had reached the point of breakout for making a nuclear bomb. “That is sad but true,” he said.
Former Israel National Security Adviser Gen. (res) Yakov Amidror wrote in The New York Times that Iran had enough enriched uranium to make 4 nuclear bombs within four or six weeks.
The Geneva nuclear accord omits reference to military aspects
All four highly seasoned and well-informed individuals appeared to share a major concern – that Iran’s leaders would settle for the interim nuclear accord they achieved with the six powers in Geneva on Nov. 24 and drag out negotiations for a comprehensive accord along the remaining three years plus of Barack Obama’s presidency.
After all, the first-step accord allows them to comfortably continue to develop their nuclear weapon capacity up until 2016 free of interference, because it omits any reference to the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program and permits uranium enrichment. By now, Tehran has grasped that Obama will never turn to military action for destroying its nuclear program.
Since the United States, Israel and the big powers have allowed Iran to reach the threshold of a nuclear bomb capacity which can be activated within weeks, only an incorrigible optimist would expect the Revolutionary Republic to suddenly agree to trash its prized nuclear program after investing 20 years and an estimated $120-140 billion of nation treasure in its development.
So the big question now is not how Iran will act in the six months of haggling over a comprehensive accord. That is easier to predict than Saudi and Israeli reactions to the inevitability of a nuclear Iran.
Iran crossed every Israeli red line without response
The Saudis will no doubt collect the nuclear weapon they were holding in reserve in Pakistan and use it to strike a balance of terror with Tehran.
The subtext underlying Binyamin Netanyahu’s harsh rhetoric is that Israel’s top political and military leaders are not looking for a balance of terror with Tehran but leaning more toward a military strike to destroy key elements of its nuclear program.
Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah mocked Netanyahu in a TV interview Tuesday, Dec. 4, when he said the Israeli leader would never dare attack Iran without a green light from Washington.
This assessment most likely reflects the view of the Iranian regime, as well as certain circles in Israel, such former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who voiced it bluntly this week.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has only himself to blame for this pervasive perception.
This week, Gary Seymour, former White House official in charge of arms control and nonproliferation, revealed that in August 2012, Netanyahu was on the point of ordering a military strike on Iran, but at the last moment was persuaded to hold his horses by a phone call from President Obama.
So for once, Nasrallah had it right.
No turning the Geneva clock back
Furthermore, Tehran has crossed every red line Netanyahu laid down in public and continued to develop its nuclear weapon program regardless, without drawing an Israeli response.
So the Iranians are entitled to lay odds against an Israel attack at this late stage.
Then, too, the Geneva negotiations in the third week of November overtook and made irrelevant three years of acerbic debating between the Obama administration and Netanyahu over what constitutes the exact stage for rating Iran a nuclear-armed power. Israel held that this critical stage arrived when Iran was within weeks of the ability to assemble a bomb, whereas Washington argued that it depended on a final order from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to assemble the bomb’s components, a moment which US intelligence was competent to detect in time.
But the moment the Israeli prime minister fixed on has come and gone.
This raises another question. In his years in office from 2009, Netanyahu devoted two keynote speeches to his Palestinian program but, aside from the constant refrain that Iran will not be allowed to attain a nuclear bomb, he has never laid out before the public a clear policy on Iran.
The Geneva deal showed that neither Tehran nor Washington was waiting for Netanyahu to act. Tehran had moved forward relentlessly toward its nuclear goal, pausing only briefly in June 2010, when the Stuxnet malworm attacked its computers.
Obama has dogged Iran’s nuclear progress with unrelenting diplomatic momentum.
The Israeli prime minister may hope to catch up with the fast-moving process and stymie it with the help of the US Congress before a comprehensive nuclear accord is struck in six months’ time. But he can’t bank on this support. The clock can’t be turned back to before the Geneva deal.