In early November (as this piece goes to press) attention has reverted to Iran as the November 24 (extended) deadline for the P5+1/Iran nuclear talks approaches.
Until now, and for the past several months, all eyes have been fixed on the horrors of ISIS and its seemingly unstoppable advances through much of Syria and Iraq while it tries to consolidate its Islamic “caliphate” against the U.S.-led efforts to stop it.
Only sporadic interest has been paid to the arguably greater threat to international peace and security posed by Iran’s march toward nuclear capability, which has been slowed – not stopped – by these year-long negotiations.
Unless something changes drastically before this column appears on Nov. 13, the six major powers (five permanent Security Council members plus Germany) and Iran will remain far apart on a deal that would deprive Iran of capacity to acquire a nuclear bomb – a development that would engender radically destabilizing nuclear proliferation throughout the region.
As things stand now, despite somewhat optimistic US reports that Iran is willing to compromise, prospects for genuine progress appear bleak.
In fact, the New York Times reported on Oct. 31 that Yukiya Amano, head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that Iran was stonewalling on President Hassan Rouhani’s commitment to answer questions about the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program – generally referred to as ‘weaponization’: efforts, past and current, to create components for a nuclear bomb. This stonewalling is consistent with Iran’s refusal to allow IAEA inspectors access to its covert Parchin military site where weaponization efforts have been suspected for many years. (It’s also the site where a mysterious, major explosion occurred early in October.)
Amano’s comments came the same day that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked “We’re closer [to a deal] than we were a week ago or 10 weeks ago. But we’re still with big gaps.”
On Nov. 2, citing an anonymous senior Israeli official, The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff wrote: “A deal between the US and Iran, or an extension of talks [beyond Nov. 24] on that contentious issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities, are both terrible options that would further destabilize the Middle East and allow the Islamic Republic to develop atomic weapons with relative ease.”
Contrary to UN Security Council resolutions ordering Iran to cease nuclear fuel enrichment, the U.S.-brokered deal would permit Iran to enrich fuel at a low level. Israel considers any such outcome to be disastrous. According to the official in Issacharoff’s report, “The number of centrifuges the US agreed to [allow Iran] is rising. Already, there are talks about 5,000 centrifuges, while it is clear that the Iranians do not need that many for civilian purposes.”
Israel also fears that the U.S. may settle for a bad agreement as it seeks, behind the scenes, to gain Iran’s cooperation in fighting ISIS. Israel is dismayed at this prospect given that the U.S. State Department still lists Iran as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and that, with the help of its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, Iran continues to play a major role in supporting Syrian president Bashar Assad’s brutal assault on his own people.
In the meantime, the Nov. 1 issue of the influential Economist magazine is devoted to Iran with a cover story titled “The revolution is over.” The Economist’s argument – in its lead editorial and 14-page special report – is that the religious zealotry, which has characterized Iran since Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 Islamic revolution, is now yielding to a moderate, pragmatic wave (if not counter-revolution).
As to what this means for a nuclear deal, the Economist is sanguine: “For a start, that on balance, Iran will act pragmatically, in what it sees as its own interests, rather than out of a messianic desire to pull down the world order.”
Whether this also includes Iran’s renouncing its desire to “wipe Israel off the map,” potentially by a nuclear bomb, the august publication doesn’t say.
:: CJN News