Israel Suspects World Powers Compromising on Iran Nuclear Plan

Jerusalem suspects Tehran sensed weakness in the West and is once again deceiving the world powers.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Iranian President Rohani delivers a speech during an annual rally commemorating anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, February 11, Tehran, Iran.
Iranian President Rohani delivers a speech during an annual rally commemorating anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, February 11, Tehran, Iran.Credit: AP
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

Israel fears that the six world powers negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program are leaning toward a compromise that would likely result in an agreement by mid-July.

In talks conducted recently with senior American officials, Israel expressed its concern about what it considers excess leniency on the part of the P5+1 negotiators.

On a visit to Israel last week, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said that the window of opportunity for achieving an agreement with Iran was limited, and liable to close soon. There is no guarantee that the relatively moderate President Hassan Rohani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will be able to continue to dictate policy for long, Rice added.

But leading Israeli politicians reject the American explanation, and believe that Tehran has discerned willingness among Western countries and is once again successfully deceiving the world powers.

The Israeli defense establishment sees Iran as eager to reach a final status agreement by July because it is desperate to lift the pressure of international sanctions from its economy.

A small percentage of the sanctions have already been lifted as a result of the interim agreement signed by Iran and the powers in Geneva last November. Iran estimates that it will be able to reactivate the national economy this year if most of the sanctions are lifted within the coming months.

Israel is also concerned by the growing reports of Western businessmen and foreign companies willing to renew economic ties with Iran, since the easing of the sanctions last year.

Rice presented Israeli officials during her visit with what the Americans describe as significant achievements in the interim agreement: first and foremost the cessation of uranium enrichment to a level of 20 percent and the dilution of existing inventory to a lower level, as well as an increase in international supervision. The Obama administration also believes that it will be possible to achieve an Iranian concession regarding the operation of the Arak reactor.

Israel is not impressed by these developments. The prevailing assessment is that Iran was willing in advance to sacrifice the plutonium track centered in Arak, as long as it could preserve its uranium-related achievements.

Rice heard criticism from the Israeli leadership about a lack of discussion, during the negotiations, of other issues it deems critical - such as the plan to manufacture long-range ballistic missiles and the extensive Iranian support for terror activity.

The impression in Israel is that the United States does not plan to push too hard to prevent the signing of the agreement, due to the continuation of the missile program.

From the Israeli point of view, it seems as though the U.S. administration is seeking to keep its word that Iran will not produce a nuclear bomb on its watch - in other words, before January 2017 - a position Israel sees as too soft: Iran is unlikely to have trouble meeting this demand as the final status agreement will enable it to rehabilitate its economy quickly and leave it a "threshold country." Under this status, Iran will be capable of resuming efforts to produce a nuclear bomb and achieve its goal within a year to 18 months (the time currently Western intelligence assessments estimate it would currently take).

A final status solution, if signed, will reduce to a minimum the chances of an independent Israeli attack against the nuclear sites at this stage, in light of the strong opposition anticipated from the international community.

Iran's status in the region has strengthened of late, as it sets the tone in the Syrian civil war and involves itself in the crises in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. Iranian assistance to Assad's regime was a critical element in the regime's success in surviving the attacks of the rebels against it. Hundreds of fighters from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, along with hundreds of military and intelligence experts, are in Syria on a permanent basis and are aiding the regime's war efforts.

Israel has also identified a renewed Iranian involvement in the Gaza Strip, where Iranians have once again strengthened their ties with Islamic Jihad. Preliminary attempts – albeit unsuccessful, at this point - have also been made at sparking reconciliation with Hamas, after the major crisis in relations between the two sides two years ago.

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