In Israel’s internal debate for and against attacking Iran’s nuclear program, the basic dividing line is between those who put their trust in the United States/international community to take care of the problem and those who do not.
President Shimon Peres—supposed to be a figurehead who keeps out of politics—recently told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that “it’s clear to us that we can’t do it alone…. It’s clear to us we have to proceed together with America. There are questions about coordination and timing, but as serious as the danger is, this time at least we are not alone.”
But what if America were to shy off from attacking Iran, or decide it was not in its interest? Not to worry, said Peres: “I am convinced this is an American interest. I am convinced [President Obama] recognizes the American interest and he isn’t saying this just to keep us happy. I have no doubt about it, after having had talks with him.”
And former Mossad chief Meir Dagan became an international media hit by saying an Israeli attack would be “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” A few months ago he and some colleagues, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, went so far as to carefully advise the international community how to use sanctions to put a full stop to Iran’s program.
Although Peres is never quiet, Dagan at least has been quiet lately. Is he having second thoughts? One doesn’t know, but there would be good reasons for him to have them.
On Wednesday AP reported that Iran’s Asian oil-buying markets are keeping it economically afloat—and more—despite the sanctions. “When Iran welcomes world leaders to a world gathering [of the Non-Aligned Movement] next week,” AP notes, “few will get a grander reception than India’s prime minister.” That’s because, while
[o]il purchases by India, China and South Korea—which decided this week to resume Iranian imports—have not covered Tehran’s losses…they have given Iran a critical cushion that brings in tens of millions of dollars in revenue each day and means that Iran has dropped only one ranking, to stand as OPEC’s third-largest producer.
The report goes on to say that “The U.S. has pressed hard for Iran’s top customers—China, India, Japan and South Korea—to scale back on crude imports, with some success…. But Washington cannot push its key Asian trading partners too fast or too aggressively and risk economic rifts.”
It then quotes an expert who says: “Despite Western sanctions…China and Japan will remain major importers of Iranian crude oil and so will India.”
So much for sanctions? At least, it seems clear that Israel shouldn’t be putting its life on the line out of a totally unwarranted assumption that they’ll work.
Meanwhile the International Atomic Energy Agency—which is supposed to make sure rogue states don’t develop nuclear weapons—is resuming talks with Iran on Friday. The ostensible goal is to gain access to Parchin, the site 20 miles southeast of Tehran where—according to Western assessments—Iran has been carrying out explosives tests relevant to nuclear weapons.
The problem is that since last November, when the IAEA fingered Parchin as a problematic site, Iran has never granted the agency access to it.
And on Wednesday IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano said he “cannot be too optimistic” about a breakthrough: “We have been making our best efforts in a constructive spirit to work out an agreement between Iran and IAEA, but so far we have not been successful in reaching agreement. I have no indication this will change very soon.”
This at a time when Iran has been upping uranium enrichment to over 20 percent while activating hundreds more centrifuges; the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate says “Iran has made surprising, notable progress in the research and development of key components of its military nuclear program”; a senior Israeli official “has said Iran has made significant progress in assembling a nuclear warhead”; and the new NIE further states that Iran has “boosted its efforts to attach a nuclear warhead to ballistic missiles.”
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