The already distant option of military action against Iran drew even further away on Wednesday, as a draft agreement on Iran's nuclear program dealt a serious blow to chances that the United States will attack Iran.
The full draft of the agreement between six world powers and Iran is still to be published, and the little we know leaves a lot of question marks. However, if the draft is confirmed and if Iran fulfills the agreement to the letter, the Islamic Republic will have scored a major achievement in the war of attrition it has been running against the international community, while still relentlessly pursuing its nuclear program.
The agreement removes all justification for an attack on Iran's nuclear sites over claims it is violating international commitments and attempts to obtain nuclear arms.
The military option seems to have been postponed by at least 18 months, the time frame allocated for the agreement. Israeli policy on Iran has suffered a particularly strong setback, as the agreement also narrows the possibility of significant sanctions against Tehran.
However, the agreement also signifies that Iran is, eventually, vulnerable to pressure, and is aware of the international community's demand and concerns over its nuclear program. The agreement distances Iran by at least 18 months from obtaining enriched uranium, which could then be further enriched to produce nuclear weapons.
Although the agreement essentially contradicts the UN Security Council, which demands a stop to all Iranian enrichment of uranium, it does not contain a clause guaranteeing the removal of the sanctions already imposed on Iran. Those sanctions are fairly light, but their maintenance is a reminder that Iran is still must prove the innocence of its intentions.
At the end of the day, any compromise agreement buys time for all involved. Iran gets relief from international pressures without stopping the uranium enrichment, and the West gets a time-out, while maintaining vigilance over the Tehran's nuclear program.
The agreement can become a landmark in a long journey toward trust and understanding between Iran and the West. But there is also the risk the deal is a one-off, or that Iran will break it, continuing to develop knowledge, technology and materials needed for nuclear weaponry. This possibility considered, the Mossad's estimate Iran could begin producing nuclear arms by 2014 remains as valid as it ever was.
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