Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu appeared Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, sounding like a man unconvinced of the Obama administration’s Iran approach. Indeed, he candidly said he didn’t agree with the interim deal being batted around: “This is a big issue and the people of good faith can have different opinions and friends and the best of friend can have different opinions. We agree on a lot of things and some things we disagree on.”
The West easing sanctions without actual moves to disable Iran’s nuclear weapons’ program the deal is a bad move, says the prime minister:
I personally hope that a better deal is achieved because that’s the way to achieve a peaceful diplomatic solution. See a bad deal, you think, will give you relief now or will give you some time to check out something else. But you’re not — you’re not going to get that because if the first step alleviates the pressure, you’re not going to get more pressure down the line. You’re not going to increase the pressure by lessening the pressure.
I would say I don’t advocate partial deals. I think partial deals are bad deals. But for those who do I’ve said, and I’ve said this to the United States government and other P5+1 governments, if you want to do a partial deal, then decide what the final deal is and then do one step. Decide that the final deal will actually implement the very terms that you, the P5+1, put in the Security Council resolution — namely that Iran dismantle all of its sentry fusion and plutonium reactor which is used for one thing: making nuclear weapons. But Iran is adamant on maintaining these capabilities, and, in fact, it is maintaining these capabilities. And it’s receiving as a first step, which may be the final step — a reduction of sanctions, which could eliminate the sanctions down the line. Not a good idea.
Frankly it is hard to understand the purpose of an interim deal — other than to stave off unilateral action by Israel. Iran will either renounce the right to enrichment and dismantle its program or it won’t. That fundamental problem isn’t alleviated by an interim deal; it is postponed. The idea that allowing Iran to enrich at a 3.5 percent level is a big gain is nonsense. As experts have explained, the time needed to break out from 3.5 percent is much, much less than the time it has taken Iran to reach this point. Considering all the enrichment already completed and the advanced centrifuges, that time is very short indeed. It is easy to see that the time between an interim deal and a final deal would be much less than the time it takes Iran to reach its nuclear weapons capacity. If it will take more time to negotiate a final deal (Why in heavens name? What have we been doing for five years?), then the parties can start now and no interim deal is required.
The administration would have us believe that the sanctions relief being offered is very small. That is, I think, entirely irrelevant. It is the direction of the administration — easing sanctions for no concrete gains — that will embolden Iran and make it difficult to reactivate or extend sanctions once the West has rushed forth to do business in Iran. (Said Netanhayu: “My assessment given what I see now, I already see the countries and the investors and the companies scrambling to get to Iran. I already hear that, those voices. I receive that information. Everybody is getting ready to the starting line to rush to Iran to give, to be in part of that deal.”)
If the administration is playing into the same fallacy that has snowed many administrations — we have to give “moderates” something to show in dealing with those “hard-liners” – then we are really in trouble. One only has to look at Iran’s recent increase in domestic repression, at the on-the-ground assistance to Syria and the acceleration of Iran’s nuclear weapons program to know that the moderates, if there are any, either aren’t “moderate” in any meaningful way or they are not running the country.
It is time for both the Iranians and the Obama team to fish or cut bait. If they can do a deal that complies with the six U.S. resolutions, they should. If not, the West has to decide to act militarily, consent to a nuclear-armed Iran or allow (and perhaps assist) Israel in acting preemptively.