Israeli strategist: There is no better deal with Iran

Prof. Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Illan University, is one of Israel’s sharpest analysts of world events. In a recent essay published by the BESA Center, he warns that there is no “better deal” with Iran, arguing that the main benefit of criticizing the existing deal (or deal framework, or whatever it is) is to give legitimacy to an eventual Israeli military strike. Key extracts from his essay are below:

The deal permits Iran to preserve stockpiles of enriched uranium, to continue to enrich uranium, and to maintain illegally-built facilities at Fordow and Arak. Even in the absence of a signed full agreement, the US and its negotiating partners have already awarded legitimacy to Iran’s nuclear threshold status. In all likelihood, the United States, quite desperate to secure an agreement, will make additional concessions in order to have a signed formal deal – which will not be worth the paper on which it is written.his outcome has been a foregone conclusion since November 2013, when the US agreed to the “Joint Plan of Action” on Iran’s nuclear program. Already back then, the US decided not to insist on the goal of rolling back the Iranian nuclear program, ignoring several UN Security Council resolutions demanding no uranium enrichment. Washington also disregarded the security concerns of its allies in the Middle East (primarily Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt – who better understand the regional realities)….

Obama is right that the only alternative to this deal is an Iranian nuclear fait accompli or the bombing of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. Obama’s penchant for engagement, his reluctance to use force, and his liberal prism on international relations (which adds rosy colors to international agreements) has led to this miserable result.

Netanyahu is wrong in demanding a better deal because no such deal exists. Yet denying its ratification by the US Congress could create better international circumstances for an Israeli military strike. In fact, criticism of Obama’s deal with Iran fulfills only one main function – to legitimize future military action. Indeed, Netanyahu is the only leader concerned enough about the consequences of a bad deal with the guts and the military capability to order a strike on the Iranian key nuclear installations.

If inspections, sanctions, sabotage and political isolation ever had a chance to stop Iran from getting the bomb, that certainly is no longer the case. It is more evident than ever that only military action can stop a determined state, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, from building a nuclear bomb. It remains to be seen whether Israel has elected the leader to live up to this historic challenge.

Similar views have been expressed by Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary Magazine, former UN Ambassador John Bolton, and this writer, among many others. That begs the question: Why do so many opponents of the Iran deal (including Prime Minister Netanyahu) feel constrained to argue that a better deal with Iran is possible? The simple answer is that the American public does not trust its leaders to take it to war, after the failed nation-building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter that the excision of Iran’s nuclear capability is a matter of an air raid, not an invasion–half a night’s work, as former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak put it. The American public is twice burned and four times shy. That gives Obama the upper hand politically. As State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said in response to the devastating Kissinger-Shultz critique of the Iran deal: “I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives. I heard a lot of–sort of a lot of big words and big thoughts in that piece, and certainly there is a place for that. But I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently.” Harf called out the former Secretaries of State for their reluctance to say outright what they doubtless think: The alternative is war.

America well may be in the position of the Allies in the late 1930s, when memories of the miserable First World War made it impossible for governments to mobilize for war against Hitler until it was almost too late.

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