by Zalman Shoval
A report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog makes it clear that Iran was working to develop a nuclear bomb. We must prepare for that scenario.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has let Iran off on grounds of "reasonable doubt" on the matter of secretly seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Anyone with eyes in his head cannot help but notice the report published last week that determined that Iran had, until 2009, worked assiduously to develop a nuclear weapon and after that had not permitted appropriate oversight. There followed a harsh indictment not only of Iran but against the world powers, primarily the United States (and not only the current administration) for failing to supervise Iran's earlier activities -- a warning light for the future.
Even The New York Times, which lent its fervent support to the nuclear deal with Iran, described the report as "murky" -- meaning it does not contain complete answers to the question of whether the deal will be able to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, not only for the 15-year freeze mandated by the agreement but even prior to that. The newspaper brings up Secretary of State John Kerry's firm statement at the start of the negotiations with Tehran that Iran would have to fully disclose its past activity in the nuclear field, or there would be no deal -- a condition that disappeared as if it had never existed. Kerry's explanation for that: "We know what they did," so there was no need for a full disclosure.
But the report makes it absolutely clear that even back in 2009, Iran had upgraded a computer model for a nuclear bomb, and it hints that Iran's refusal to respond to questions about the period after 2009 was a sign that it had persisted in its efforts after that, too, and will do so in the future -- this time behind the backdrop of this year's deal. We can assume that the wording, less blatant than it could have been, was accepted by the P5+1 powers (the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany), which were pressing for a deal at almost any price. This, despite the fact that IAEA inspectors themselves tended to reject the Iranian explanations that their research was supposedly intended for peaceful purposes and opined that Iran's nuclear program indeed fit with "activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano noted diplomatically that "the report isn't black and white" without mentioning that the black nearly obliterates the white. Everyone involved, including Israel, must conclude that practical preparations, including military ones, should be made for every possible scenario, whether 15 years from now or sooner. Practically speaking, the report might not have changed much, not only because it was published after the fact, but because the world powers were determined to strike a deal anyway, to hell with the facts. Lest there be any doubt, the Obama administration was quick to announce that "the implementation of the deal was not conditional upon the IAEA report." Not that the administration and its partners aren't worried about the possibility that Iran could have nuclear weapons, but for now they are eyeing more important things, like the war on the Islamic State group, the situation in Syria, and "stabilizing" the Middle East (President Barack Obama's version). At any rate, when the day comes, the thinking goes, "we'll be able to contain the bomb somehow."
The deal with Iran is a fait accompli, but that doesn't mean the debate over it is finished. The supposed connection between Iran's nuclear program and the Palestinian issue has popped up again -- for example, at a recent discussion at the National Security Agency, former American Ambassador to Egypt Dan Kurtzer mentioned that in the 1990s, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had argued that to address the Iranian threat, it was necessary to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict. Rabin did make that argument, but not only did he have an imperfect understanding of the reality -- as shown by the ridiculous reasoning that if only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were solved, the Iranians would stop their attempts to develop a bomb and retreat from their aspirations of Middle East hegemony -- but his remark also strengthened the hand of officials in the U.S. and the world who already blame Israel for all the region's troubles.
In contrast to the faulty analysis of Rabin and Kurtzer, the Iranian nuclear threat has actually led to the creation of an unofficial diplomatic front between the moderate Arab states and Israel, a front that might even help reach a practical deal on the Palestinian matter.
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