Senior Israeli defense officials who have analyzed the agreement that Iran reached with the world powers this week are expressing greater concern over the boost in the Islamic Republic’s standing in the Middle East than the implications for its nuclear plans.
The officials also warned about possible gaps in the ability of international inspectors to monitor Iran’s nuclear sites and possible Iranian violations of the agreement, and said the mechanism put in place to deal with violations is too cumbersome.
Iran will be able to relatively easily and quickly free itself from the international isolation that has been imposed on it over its protracted refusal to curb its nuclear program, a senior defense source told Haaretz. Companies from Europe and elsewhere are already “standing in line” waiting to renew their commercial ties with Iran, the source said, and the Iranian economy is expected to receive a boost of tens of billions of dollars within a relatively short time.
Undoubtedly a considerable portion of these funds will be directed to support terrorists and subversive groups in the Middle East, the official said.
There is acknowledgment in Israel that procedures put in place through the nuclear agreement regarding Iran’s known nuclear sites could make effective oversight of them possible, but concern is being expressed that Iran would still be able to secretly conduct portions of its nuclear program and that it would take time for such violations to be detected by the West.
A considerable amount of the criticism relates to the mechanism provided for investigating allegations of breaches of the agreement, which relies on a committee on which in addition to the six world powers, Iran is also represented.
Since the agreement provides that the committee is only to convene 24 days after the discovery of a suspected violation, the Iranians would have more than enough time to cover their tracks before any meeting over dispatching a team of inspectors to the site. The main Israeli complaint in this regard is that the United States, which led the negotiations with Iran, went too easy on Tehran considering Iran’s proven record of fraud and deception in years past.
Israel intends to wage a battle in the U.S. Congress against the lifting of sanctions against Iran, unconnected to its expectations for an American military aid package once there is final approval of the Iranian agreement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to devote major efforts to trying to convince Republican and Democratic members of both houses of Congress by pointing out the many flaws in the agreement, as he sees it.
The success of Netanyahu’s effort in the Senate is dependent upon agreement by 13 Democratic Senators, more than a quarter of the Democrats in the upper chamber, to vote with the Republicans on an issue that President Barack Obama deems critical to his administration’s foreign policy. Although the prospects for a Congressional override of an expected presidential veto appear slim, Netanyahu is not retreating from the effort.
A defense source told reporters on Wednesday that the Israeli defense establishment needs to be prepared for the implementation of the agreement, but “we are already thinking about the consequences, and also [about] protecting ourselves by ourselves.”
The agreement with Iran, the source said, will perpetuate a situation in which it remains a nuclear threshold state and in practice, at the end of the first decade of the agreement there will be no limitation on Iran developing a nuclear capability.
“There will be a removal of sanctions, the economy will get a serious boost and there will be more money for the Iranian emissaries who are working not only against us. And it will be a regime for which the sanctions have been lifted and that has become an international player that continues to encourage terrorism,” the source said. “Will it continue to fund Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad? And now with more money? That is what we face.”
Israel is anticipating that the true nature of the accord will become clear in September and October after the issue is debated in Congress. The Israeli defense establishment has therefore decided not to present its request for additional military financial aid or for the provision of advanced weaponry until then.
“The Americans understand,” the source added wryly, “that in light of the agreement and also the fact that the agreement is so good that the Arab countries need to be armed, all of this requires a response to maintain our qualitative edge. Everyone is aware of this. We have decided that the issue isn’t to be discussed until the picture regarding the agreement becomes clear, whether it is approved or not. Then we will enter down-to-earth discussions over compensation for the State of Israel in light of the change in the security situation in the region.”
The source claimed that the agreement with Iran is worrying not only to the Saudis, but also other countries in the region, including Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. “They see an apocalyptic regime that even before the agreement has hegemony over Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Even if not all the countries say so publicly, the sentiments from all of them are sentiments of concern.”
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