One month away from the Nov. 24 deadline on the talks between the U.S. (and its allies) and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear program, the two sides appear to be far apart and an agreement unlikely. That would be good news, given that the alternative — a deal that has Iran reduce its operational centrifuges but keeps it on the threshold of producing a nuclear bomb — is far worse.
Such a deal would result in the reduction or removal of strong financial sanctions against Iran, bolstering its struggling economy. It would also give its uranium enrichment program legitimacy and allow the world’s leading exporter of terror the ability to reach “breakout time” to produce a bomb in months, experts believe. That would likely set off a nuclear arms race in an already chaotic, terror-ridden Middle East. One can only imagine the catastrophic results if terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah or ISIS had access to a nuclear bomb.
Israel has long said that a bad deal with Iran is worse than no deal, and President Obama has said the same. But Mideast observers note that Obama is so invested in a successful conclusion to these nuclear negotiations that he will push hard for an agreement that would only postpone Iran’s march toward nuclear arms.
A worrisome report in The New York Times this week said that Obama plans to avoid bringing any Iran deal before Congress for approval. Aides say the president is convinced he would lose the vote even if the Democrats retain a Senate majority after the midterm elections next month. Israeli officials are deeply concerned about such a maneuver by the White House because they rely on strong support for Israel in a Congress deeply suspicious of Iran, which has lied about its nuclear program for many years.
Also this week, the head of the UN atomic energy agency pointed out that Iran has not put in place all of the nuclear transparency measures that it agreed to finalize two months ago. As a result, Yukiya Amano, who heads the UN agency, said it was not able to “provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.”
All the more reason to believe no deal is the best option at this time.
Israel’s minister of intelligence, Yuval Steinitz, asserted that “choosing the ‘no deal’ option will very likely produce extra pressure — including some new sanctions — on Iran, and subsequently, might pave the way for a better deal in the future.” It would also indicate that increasing the pressure, rather than reducing it, is the only way to convince Iran to accept meaningful compromises.
Meanwhile, the nuclear clock is ticking.