The military option is back on the table
Michael Willner of the JPost reports that Israel is putting its military option to take out Iran's nuclear weapons back on the table in light of the deal that is being reached in Vienna.
World powers have presented Iran with an accord that would restrict its nuclear program for roughly ten years and cap its ability to produce fissile material for a weapon during that time to a minimum nine-month additional period, from the current three months.The result is that Israel is once again weighing a military option.
Should Tehran agree, the deal may rely on Russia to convert Iran's current uranium stockpile into fuel rods for peaceful use. The proposal would also include an inspection regime that would attempt to follow the program's entire supply chain, from the mining of raw material to the syphoning of that material to various nuclear facilities across Iran.
Israel's leaders believe the best of a worst-case scenario, should that deal be reached, is for inspections to go perfectly and for Iran to choose to abide by the deal for the entire decade-long period.
But "our intelligence agencies are not perfect," an Israeli official said. "We did not know for years about Natanz and Qom. And inspection regimes are certainly not perfect. They weren't in the case in North Korea, and it isn't the case now – Iran's been giving the IAEA the run around for years about its past activities."
"What's going to happen with that?" the official continued. "Are they going to sweep that under the rug if there's a deal?"
But compounding Israel's fears, the proposal Jerusalem has seen shows that mass dismantlement of Iran's nuclear infrastructure – including the destruction, and not the mere warehousing, of its parts – is no longer on the table in Vienna.
"Iran's not being asked to dismantle the nuclear infrastructure," the Israeli official said, having seen the proposal before the weekend. "Right now what they're talking about is something very different. They're talking about Ayatollah Khamenei allowing the P5+1 to save face."
Yet, more than any single enforcement standard or cap included in the deal, Israel believes the Achilles' heel of the proposed agreement is its definitive end date – the sunset clause.
"You've not dismantled the infrastructure, you've basically tried to put limits that you think are going to be monitored by inspectors and intelligence," said the official, "and then after this period of time, Iran is basically free to do whatever it wants."
Without an exit ramp, Israel insists its hands will not be tied by an agreement reached this week, this month or next, should it contain a clause that ultimately normalizes Iran's home-grown enrichment program.Hmmm.
On the surface, its leadership dismisses fears that Israel will be punished or delegitimized if it disrupts an historic, international deal on the nuclear program with unilateral military action against its infrastructure.
By framing the deal as fundamentally flawed, regardless of its enforcement, Israel is telling the world that it will not wait to see whether inspectors do their jobs as ordered.
"Ten, fifteen years in the life of a politician is a long time," the Israeli said, in a vague swipe against the political directors now scrambling in Vienna. "In the life of a nation, it's nothing."