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Vienna Nuclear Accord viewed from Jerusalem

A happy Iranian supreme leader Khamenei president Rouhani meet their cabinet after Vienna accord is announced (Iranian TV)

President Barack Obama has succeeded - he wanted to kick the can down the road to his successor and apparently he's done it. The last chance to block the Iranian nuclear deal is now in the hands of the US Senate where only a special 67-seat majority can override Obama's presidential veto. Although it comes as no surprise, the Vienna nuclear agreement is still mind-boggling. Seventy years after the Holocaust of six million Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany, the Jewish state of Israel could face a nuclear Holocaust if the Ayatollahs in Tehran are not stopped from acquiring A-Bombs. Yet, there is no limit to the utter disdain that is being hurled at Israel for not welcoming this flawed fiasco that will leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power in the Middle East.

...a total of 576 hours to allow the Iranians to clean up the site, apparently the time they calculated they would need.

This is the obvious conclusion if all Iran's infrastructure is simply put in mothballs, enabling her to break out for nuclear weapons after it cashes in on hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 10 years. Of all people, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even chastised Jerusalem for daring to point out the glaring omissions in the accord. For example, the advance notice of a minimum of 24 days before inspectors will be allowed into Iran's military's sites where the nuclear weapons research would clearly be conducted! That is a total of 576 hours to allow the Iranians to clean up the site, apparently the time they calculated they would need. If the Iranians are sincere about halting all their nuclear weapons research and development, why do they not simply allow them in any time or any place? And on and on.

Yet, Barack Obama says this is an honorable agreement, one that is not built on trust alone, but that is verifiable! For years the Iranians have bamboozled the West as they proceeded in their nuclear weapons program. They have lied and cheated every step of the way; and even after the deal has been signed, the Iranians have still not come clean on how far they have advanced already in the PMDs (possible military dimensions). That, Yakiya Amano, the Director-General of the IAEA, hopes the Iranians will disclose by next September. Lots of luck!

Obama and his Western partners, who are along for the ride, have agreed to sign a nuclear accord without knowing how far the Iranians have progressed on building A-Bombs.

In other words, Obama and his Western partners, who are along for the ride, have agreed to sign a nuclear accord without knowing how far the Iranians have progressed on building A-Bombs. By the way, President Hassan Rouhani, with a straight face, has just declared that Iran has never conducted nuclear military research because the Supreme leader has ruled it would violate Islam. But as Secretary Kerry once said about the Obama administration:

'We're not stupid and I don't think we're foolish!'

So why has Obama done it in the face of harsh reprimands by such American critics as Gen. (ret) David Pertraeus, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and many of Obama's former aides?

There is, however, a 'method in the madness': In order to avoid a military confrontation with Tehran, Obama concocted his engagement theory. It is a new approach in international relations off the Obama drawing board. First 'make nice' to the Iranians in secret contacts. Then engage them publicly, and eventually the Ayatollahs will see the light and jettison their messianic goal of exporting their brand of Islam throughout the Middle East and beyond. In lieu of that, Iranian liberals will eventually take over, oust the regime in democratic elections, and then be welcomed with outstretched arms by the community of peace loving nations. This epiphany is at the end of the day for the world's greatest sponsor of state terrorism! An added benefit will be Shiite Iran joining the fray against the fanatic Sunni scourge of Islamic State.

The Iranians realized that Obama's pledge that all options were on the table was nothing but rhetoric. In fact, they understood that although Obama hinted at the military option, that statement was designed for Israel's consumption and his critics at home.

Take your pick - Obama will go down in history as one of the greatest leaders in American history or the Neville Chamberlain of the 21 century. The severest critics of this accord compare it to Munich. In fact, maybe even worse because Obama embarked on his diplomatic debacle with far superior military power and economic strength while Iran was on the ropes of an economic slowdown. But at the end of the day Tehran is right to claim victory.

The Iranians realized that Obama's pledge that all options were on the table was nothing but rhetoric. In fact, they understood that although Obama hinted at the military option, that statement was designed for Israel's consumption and his critics at home. In fact, he apparently was thinking the opposite: allowing the world's greatest state sponsor of terrorism to preserve its status as a threshold nuclear state. In return, kiss good-bye to the sanctions. (Netanyahu is probably right in saying that even these sanctions would not have been enforced without his prodding and that Iran would have already acquired nuclear weapons if Israel had not intervened, although he did not elaborate).

Test for American Jewry

American Jews and former Israelis, who now live in the US, will now have to consider where they stand in this historic struggle. In the last presidential election they voted overwhelmingly for Obama and subsequently for the Democrats. And what if front-runner Hilary Clinton comes out in strong support for the nuclear deal that will put Israel in jeopardy? And how will this impact on the Democratic Senators when the chips are down in the Senate vote?

Israel's options

Netanyahu will continue to 'go for broke' in his attempt at swaying the US Senate to reject the accord. A pre-emptive Israeli air strike on Iran's nuclear weapons facilities will be out of the question, at least until Obama leaves office in January of 2017. The temporary Obama decision to halt the supply of Hellfire rockets to Israel during last summer's war with Gaza was a warning from the White House. But the hope is that whoever succeeds Obama will be more 'Israel-friendly '. Channel 1's military commentator, Amir Bar Shalom, said the IDF believes an Israeli air strike could take out Iran's nuclear sites for a period of two years.

'It is reasonable to assume that Iran will become a nuclear state in the next decade following in the footsteps of North Korea and Pakistan. It turns a new page in the Middle East...'

Netanyahu has appealed to the opposition parties to now join his coalition in order to form a more unified Israel. While there is a national consensus that the accord is very bad for Israel, Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Camp will not join the coalition at this time. On the other hand, Netanyahu has offered them a veiled concession. At a meeting with settler leaders on the West Bank, Bibi indicated that he has adopted a quiet freeze on settlement building over the last year due to international considerations. This trial balloon has been assailed not only by the settlers but also by members inside of his ruling Likud party.

The assessment by former prime minister and former defense minister Ehud Barak, who partnered with Bibi in mounting the international sanctions against Iran, has also blasted the deal, but advises Bibi to cool it with Obama:

'The accord legitimizes Iran's status as a threshold nuclear weapons state. It gives Tehran the option of deciding when to break out for an A-Bomb … so from this aspect it is a bad deal. Meanwhile it allows Iran to free herself from the economic stranglehold of sanctions'.

And Barak added:

'It is reasonable to assume that Iran will become a nuclear state in the next decade following in the footsteps of North Korea and Pakistan. It turns a new page in the Middle East. The US and the other powers recognize her as a legitimate regional super-power, and [as shifting] from being part of the problem to becoming part of the solution'.

But he added:

'The good news is that Israel is still the strongest power in the Middle East, militarily, economically, and politically. We are absolutely not in the position of Europe in 1938, or the Palestine of 1947'.

Former prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak

The former prime minister and defense minister called on Netanyahu not to enter a confrontation with the Obama administration, although MKs and public figures could make their positions known as individuals. The prime minister and MKs can talk to people they know and explain why Israel opposes the deal - this is legitimate. But Israel as a state should not enter into an internal political debate in the US, which is Israel's best friend.

'It is necessary to talk to the Americans about what will constitute a smoking gun (about future Iranian violation of the accord), how to preserve Israel's qualitative advantage, and how to act, if need be, against Iran'.

As for the military option, Israel must maintain it:

'The change in the overall situation will result in other changes, and the US should also participate in preserving Israel's capabilities. Israel should also initiate negotiations on a regional security pact with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. (Israel already has formed a quiet alliance with Egypt in Sinai). We are not in an apocalyptic situation'.

Ehud Barak, who is no longer in active politics, can be considered a Left of Center pragmatist. Let's look at the reactions of some other commentators on the Right and the Left.

  • Boaz Bismuth: 'History will never forgive Barak Obama - this is a day of infamy!'
  • Dan Margalit: 'Obama has made Iran into a super-power!'
  • Gen. (ret) Yaacov Amidror: 'Paradoxically, the accord may strengthen the Sunni Islamist State! The Sunni Arabs in the Middle East may interpret the agreement of making Iran a Shiite super-power as a sign that the West has opted to back Shiite Iran against the Sunnis in the ongoing struggle in Islam. This may influence many Sunnis to join Islamic State. This is a terrible deal that will bring terrible results'.
  • Dr. Reuven Berko: 'The Americans have chosen Iranian terrorists as the vanguard for imposing regional order, and the Sunni Arabs are deeply worried. Many of them now view Netanyahu as speaking with courage and in their name. The jungle of verbiage in the accord again exposes Iran's mastery of the concept 'Taqiya', that is the Islamic religious dispensation to lie in order to deceive the enemy. The Iranian Empire was defeated by the Arabs in the year 638. Last night's agreement supplies the Iranians with new and powerful imperialist and even apocalyptic power in the Islamic world. Now in our mutual trenches, Israel and the Arabs have much to talk about'.

On the Left, the Haaretz editorial advised to 'Give the Agreement a Chance':
  • 'Israel's fears are understandable and the grave doubts about the deal are based on a long history of Iran's violations and deception. But in every agreement, even the most perfect, the proof will be in the pudding - Iran's honoring it in word and spirit, as she did in the intermediate agreement. In addition, there will be the monitoring and the uncompromising implementation of all its clauses. This is the huge responsibility that the Western powers have taken upon themselves by signing the agreement. The state of Israel, which rightly views herself as the main target of the Iranian threat, is justified in viewing the agreement with suspicion and lack of confidence. In the same manner she exposed an important part of Iran's nuclear program, so must Israel also be on alert in following Iran's conduct and warning of every violation of the agreement. Although Israel was not a partner to the negotiations, she is not absolved from playing the role of watch-dog. At the same time, Israel must give it a fair chance to ascertain if Tehran and the great powers are prepared to adopt a new approach in their relations'.
  • Zvi Bar'el: 'Iran will not suddenly become a likeable state and its regime will not stop looking to its messianic ideology for advice, but as of now this is Iran's private affair and that of its 80 million citizens. The world has succeeded in closing a deal that it wanted with her. Maybe the world does not believe Iran, but it does believe in agreements with her; although it is shocked by the regime's violation of human rights, on the scale of values of pragmatic policy, Iran has delivered the goods'.
  • Amos Harel: 'Even if the Vienna agreement is problematic and full of flaws, it is close to becoming a done deal. On the other hand, an Israeli attack is no longer a relevant scenario. If, as Obama predicts, he will overcome any objections in the Senate, we will have to cope with these basic facts: Iran is a powerful regional power with a host of bad intentions, but without nuclear weapons at this stage. Israel's response to this threat depends on strengthening her ties with the US, bolstering the IDF's capabilities with America's help, and forging an alliance of joint interests with the moderate Sunni Arab states'.
A map of the Sykes–Picot agreement, which was signed by Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot on May 8, 1916.

Everyone agrees that the Vienna agreement has opened a new chapter in Middle East history. It is comparable to the Sykes-Picot agreement back in 1916 when the Great Powers of Britain and France carved up the region to suit their imperial interests. Now the great power is Barack Obama, who has fought hard to keep America out of any new military involvements in the region. So the present US president will apparently be able to leave the White without any new American entanglements, but at what future cost? What if his refusal to confront Iran triggers an eventual nuclear arms race in the region?

Neither Obama nor the Vienna agreement has an answer to this nightmare that will also go down to Obama's legacy. Russia has already started moving in with offers to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. Bear in mind, it was the Russian nuclear aid to Iran that started the current nuclear crisis with Iran.

Iranian Nuclear Threat




David Essing


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