As we feared last month, the West’s capitulation to Iran is indeed deepening, as rumours abound that the West, led by America, is about to ease sanctions on Iran in exchange for a spurious “scaling back” of its nuclear program:
A second round of talks between Iran and the West kicked off in Geneva Thursday, with the Iranian foreign minister saying that a deal over his country’s controversial nuclear program could be reached by week’s end, if all parties strove to reach that goal.
A senior US official, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, said the six world powers of the P5+1 — the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany — were ready to offer “limited, targeted and reversible” sanctions relief in response to agreement by Iran to start scaling back activities that could be used to make weapons.
Israel is furious at this Western capitulation:
Israeli minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) said the offer was “unfathomable” and that it was a “grave mistake” to offer any easing of the sanctions pressure when the Iranians hadn’t done anything to dismantle their nuclear program. He said the nuclear program was seen by the regime in Tehran as its guarantee of survival, and that it was taking its cue from the summer’s Syrian chemical weapons crisis, when it saw that the West didn’t dare confront the relatively weak President Bashar Assad, even though he used chemical weapons against his own people 14 times.
“Israel… has learned that a proposal will be brought before the P5+1 in Geneva in which Iran will cease all enrichment at 20 percent and slow down work on the heavy water reactor in Arak, and will receive in return the easing of sanctions,” an Israeli official told AFP Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Israel thinks this is a bad deal and will oppose it strongly.”
American incompetence has now also led to the possibility of Iran becoming officially involved in Syria, courtesy of Russia, the eternal spoiler. If Russia gets its way Iran won’t need to nuke Israel. They’ll be right in our backyard as Russia demands that Iran be involved in Syria conference:
The UN’s top Syria envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, headed into meetings with senior Russian and US officials Tuesday to see if a UN-sponsored peace conference bringing together Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and a united opposition delegation could be convened later this month in Geneva.
Brahimi also planned to meet with officials from Britain, France, China and four of Syria’s neighbors struggling to cope with the conflict, now in its third year. The UN says over 100,000 people have died.
Russia demanded earlier Tuesday that Iran be invited to the conference, even after Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba said his faction would not attend if Iran were there, Reuters reported.
“All those with influence on the situation must certainly be invited… this includes not only Arab countries but also Iran,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Lavrov also criticized the SNC demand for a clear time frame for Assad to step down, arguing there should be no preconditions for the talks.
If Iran is invited, Israel should demand an invitation too. We are much closer to the combat zone, being right across the border and suffering direct results of the war in the form of cross-border shelling and treating Syrian patients and war-wounded.
The implications of these two pieces of news are pessimistically analysed by Prof. Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, who stated succinctly that (emphases added):
… an Israeli military operation against Iran’s nuclear program was feasible several years ago, but that today, “the train has left the station.”
He added, however, that the Iranian regime is rational and calculated, and that Israel will need to start thinking about how to contain a nuclear Iran together with Arab states that are also threatened by the Islamic Republic.
This is the very scenario that Israel has been working so hard to avoid, and nearly succeeded until the incompetent and/or malevolent American administration threw a spanner into the works and raised its hands in surrender.
In current diplomatic talks between Iran and the international community, “the two sides understand they have to reach a middle ground,” Rabi said. An agreement will likely involve Iran decreasing its uranium enrichment activities and a timetable for inspection of nuclear facilities, though it will not include complete Iranian transparency, he added.
“Some of the sites will be open for inspection. Everything will be partial. This is convenient for the Iranian and the American presidents,” Rabi stated.
Such an agreement will likely be supported by Russia – and Europe, despite some reservations, will give its blessing as well.
Iran will not provide any further concessions, Rabi stressed.
A deal on Iran’s nuclear program might also expand to an international arrangement for the attempted resolution of the Syrian conflict, Rabi said.
“The Iranians can say: ‘If we’re accepted as a partner in future talks on Syria, we can carry out steps that will push towards an end to the conflict in Syria,’” he added.
This is the precise problem which is heading our way with the above-mentioned Russian demand for Iranian participation in the Syria disarmament talks.
The US will seek to calm its Middle East allies, Israel, the Gulf states and Egypt, all of whom are threatened by a nuclear Iran, and convince them that it did not abandon them.
Riiight. That’s going so well at the moment. The Saudis and Egypt are turning to Russia for assistance and Israel is looking further east, to China and India, to replace their vacillating erstwhile ally, America.
Any lifting of sanctions will likely be gradual and could involve a slow easing of restrictions on the Iranian oil or banking industries.
But a partial nuclear deal is a “certified recipe for creating a nuclear Iran in the intermediate future,” Rabi warned. Israel and other regional states will have to start thinking about not only preventing Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons, but how to contain a nuclear Tehran as well.
Rabi expressed skepticism that a military attack at this late phase could effectively stop the Islamic Republic’s march to atomic bombs.
“A strike can put them back perhaps by a year or two. What do you do at the end of that time? Strike again?” he asked. Instead, Israel should enter a regional coalition of states threatened by Iran, he argued.
Military generals in Israel who urged the government to wait before striking Iran years ago should not be pushing for a strike at such a late stage, he charged.
“I don’t think a nuclear Iran will cause a regional disaster. It will create very difficult challenges,” Rabi said.
Although I’m no expert I disagree. I think a nuclear Iran will most definitely be a regional disaster, more for the Gulf States and non-Shia states than for Israel. I also wonder how rational an actor Iran really is. As Israel Matzav says:
Sorry, but I don’t buy this. I don’t see Iran as a rational actor. I don’t see the Gulf Arab states allying with us – openly or otherwise – regardless of the circumstances (although they’ll be happy to have us do their dirty work on our own). I think there is value in setting Iran back a year or two, especially if it’s followed by harsh sanctions that could prevent Iran from rebuilding its nuclear capability.”
Prof. Rabi gives some practical advice to Israel:
“We have to be responsive and not enter a state of melancholy. There won’t be regional destruction or apocalyptic scenarios. Israel must develop tools to ensure that its back isn’t against the wall,” Rabi said.
“Iran is very calculated. It does not want to lose resources in a futile war,” he added.
Inside Iran, President Hassan Rouhani has managed to convince the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, that a change in tactics is in order to prevent a collapse of the economy and a new revolution.
Rouhani is a product of the Iranian regime, and his call for a change of course is merely tactical, not ideological, according to Rabi’s assessment.
“He belongs to the elite of the Islamic revolution… what he’s trying to do is prove that through his way, Iran can purchase estates of support abroad and ease the sanctions, without significantly harming Iranian interests.”
“The Iranian charm offensive is working on the Europeans and Americans, who do not want to get involved in another Middle Eastern saga, and want to look at the half-full glass,” Rabi added.
Hmm. About that charm offensive: Does calling Israel an “illegitimate bastard regime” count as charming? If so, I have several quite unprintable names I could call Khamenei and his charming country.
In the only bit of slightly good news regarding the region, Israel is preparing for a massive air drill with Greece, Italy, and the US:
The Israeli Air Force will conduct a joint drill with a bevy of some 1,000 pilots from three other nations in the Negev Desert later this month.
The two-week exercise will take place at the Uvda air base, near the southern resort city of Eilat, and will include air crews from the United States, Italy and Greece, the IAF announced Tuesday.
The drill, which has been dubbed “Blue Flag,” will be modeled after the US Air Force’s annual Red Flag desert exercise. More than 100 aircraft will be on hand to participate in simulated dogfights and surface-to-air exercises.
It will be the largest international drill ever held in Israel, requiring the IAF to conduct extensive preparations.
The IAF has been drilling extensively in recent years for the possibility that it will be called upon to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Last month, as talks over Iran’s nuclear program kicked off in Geneva, the IAF conducted several large exercises over the northern border and the Mediterranean Sea, with fighter aircraft practicing a simulated strike on a distant target.
Those flights included midair refueling, coordinated strikes to an exceptionally long distance, and dogfights. They were carried out over the territorial waters of Greece, which will be among the countries participating in Blue Flag this month.
With America’s record on spying on its allies and capitulating to its enemies, perhaps Israel should exclude the Americans from this exercise.