By Jeremy Havardi, Blogger and journalist
In his speech to Congress last week, Benjamin Netanyahu delivered his most withering rebuke yet to Barack Obama over Iran. He spoke with devastating clarity about the flaws in the US led diplomatic initiative and what was at stake for the free world if Tehran acquired the bomb.
It was hard not to be impressed with his grasp of logic and strategy, as well as his superb oratorical skills. Like Churchill in his Iron Curtain speech of 1946, Netanyahu was accused of warmongering and belligerence, of stoking up the fires of conflict instead of “giving peace a chance”. But Netanyahu was not calling for an immediate war with Iran or slamming the idea of a peace initiative. He was merely condemning this proposed deal on the grounds that it was unworkable and would only embolden Iran.
The contours of an agreement have emerged from recent leaks and give genuine reasons for concern. It seems certain that Iran is set to become a nuclear threshold state.
In effect, its nuclear architecture will be frozen, possibly with a partial rollback on the quantity of enriched uranium in the country.
Judging by recent announcements, it is inconceivable that Iran would agree to dismantle all its centrifuges and have them shipped out of the country.
Leaving Iran with the ability to enrich uranium is dangerous, with no guarantee that the material will not be used to breakout to the nuclear weapons stage.
What is critical is the amount of time the West could respond in the event that Iran breaches the agreement. Many Israelis fear that this time is inadequate and, understandably, do not wish to entrust their security to a foreign power.
In addition, not much is much being said about Iran’s ballistic missiles. Only a fool would believe that these weapons are somehow peripheral to the country’s plans. They are designed to eventually carry nuclear warheads and that puts Israel and Europe within its sights.
In years to come, these weapons will point at America too. The next problem is the so-called sunset clause.
Any deal signed with the Islamic Republic is time limited, with the suggestion that it will end after 10 years.
As Ray Takeyh, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has put it, once that clause has expired, there will be ‘no legal limits on Iran’s nuclear ambition’.
It could theoretically build up its nuclear infrastructure and if it achieves ‘threshold nuclear status’, there would be ‘no verification regime that is guaranteed to detect a sprint to a bomb’.
Some argue that this is a standard feature of arms limitation agreements, and indeed it is. But to argue that Iranian violations will be met by the swift re-imposition of sanctions is presumptuous to say the least.
With so many powers investing in Iran right now, is it really likely that a new and more powerful sanctions regime can be quickly re-established by the international community, and then not undermined by Russia or China? One would hardly bet the house on it.
For a more reliable guide to Western behaviour, one could cite the rather hesitant and weak willed response to North Korea’s nuclear activities.
A deal like this must rely on a degree of trust regarding Iran’s intentions. But it is not through any change of heart that the ayatollahs have come to the negotiating table.
It is only tough sanctions and a declining economy that have brought about more conciliatory noises. Iran remains a militant rogue state, a fascist theocracy with a mission to export violent Shi’ite extremism throughout the Muslim world.
It has stirred terrorism in Lebanon, supported mass murder in Syria and armed Palestinian extremists in Gaza.
A nuclear capability would enhance its power enormously and threaten every pro-western interest in the region, as well as leaving the non-proliferation treaty in tatters.
In any case, Tehran’s past behaviour reveals a long history of concealment, evasion and outright deceit, giving further cause for concern. This Middle Eastern leopard is not likely to change its spots.
That was why Netanyahu spoke so forcefully in the most powerful legislature in the world. But with a US administration desperate not to put all options on the table, his words will surely be ignored, and with disastrous consequences.