The net of doubt

 


Let me state this up front. I am not a big fan of Benjamin Netanyahu. I believe his hard line approach to continuing the development of settlements and building in East Jerusalem is counterproductive. I think his recent visit to the United States to speak to and influence Congress damaged Israel’s relationship with its most important ally, and was completely devoid of any constructive ideas. His re-election tactics, including announcing the day before elections that he was opposed to a 2-state solution, then backpedaling the day after he won re-election, were terrible, to say the least. And I find it hard to believe him when he says he offers a viable alternative to the negotiated framework to control Iran’s nuclear capabilities.  

The main points of the tentative agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program are:

• Iran will reduce its installed enrichment centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,000, of which 5,000 will be spinning.

• Fordo, Iran’s second enrichment facility (its main one is at Natanz) and the one that is buried deep within a mountain to make it immune to conventional air strikes, will cease all enrichment and be turned into a physics research center. It will not produce or house any fissile material for at least 15 years.


• Iran will reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (which can be turned into weapons-grade material) from 10,000kg to 300kg for the next 15 years.

• The heavy-water reactor at Arak will be redesigned and its original core, which would have produced significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be removed and destroyed. No other heavy-water reactor will be built for 15 years.

• Inspectors will be able to inspect any facility, declared or otherwise, as long as it is deemed to be “suspicious.”

After Netanyahu said that he’s not trying to kill any deal, just a bad deal, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister, Yuval Steinitz, put forth the following changes to the working framework, stating that these would be more satisfactory to Israel:

• An end to all research and development activity on advanced centrifuges in Iran.

• A significant reduction in the number of centrifuges that are operational or that can quickly become operational if Iran breaks the agreement and decides to build a bomb.

• The closing of the Fordo facility as an enrichment site, even if enrichment activities are suspended there.

• A commitment to ship its stockpile of enriched uranium out of Iran. (Iran said that it would not ship the stockpile out of the country, but the UD has left open the option of sending it abroad or diluting it in Iran.

• Iranian compliance in revealing its past activities with “possible military dimensions.”

• “Anywhere, anytime” access for inspectors charged with verifying the agreement in Iran.

(For more information, read Thomas Friedman’s interview with President Obama, NY Times, April 5, 2015: (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/06/opinion/ thomas-friedman-the-obama-doctrine-and-iran-interview.html?_r=0, as well as “Skeptical of Iran Nuclear Deal, Israel Calls for Changes”: NY Times April 6: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/07/world/middleeast/israel-iran-nuclear-deal.html.


The issue regarding Israel’s demands is not whether or not they make sense. In a perfect world, they do. The issue is whether or not there would ever be an agreement with them as the bottom line, and the inherent problem here is the absolute, extreme nature of these modifications—an end to all research, the complete closing of Fordo, anywhere, anytime inspections. Are these demands ideal? Yes. In a world framed by diplomacy, will they ever bear fruit? Highly doubtful. Understanding that Netanyahu is a lifelong politician who understands the nuances of diplomacy, what, then, is his real intent? What can be read between the lines?

In a recent program on National Public Radio, the commentator made the point that White House staff had dismissed Netanyahu’s negative response, stating that “he’d made up his mind months ago,” long before any negotiations were finalized. That, coupled with Netanyahu’s support of and insistence on keeping sanctions up until a satisfactory deal is worked out, leads me to believe that what he really wants is not a nuclear arms deal at all, but a continuation of the strangling economic sanctions that are fomenting dissent and crippling every sector of business in Iran. Think about it. What could be better for Israel than to have the current Iranian government collapse, to remove the Ayatollahs from power and replace them with a younger, more moderate government? Iran has one of the youngest populations in the Middle East, and the balancing act between the young population and the ruling Muslim extremists is tremulous at best. If sanctions continue, Israel might get more than an arms deal. It could get that plus a new neighbor. If only Netanyahu could own up to his real objectives, rather than sowing seeds of ambivalence and disdain between Israel and the White House (as well as many people and politicians in the U.S.), we might actually see Iran’s nuclear program scrutinized, scaled back, and stifled, at least for the next decade or more.

POINT OF CLARIFICATION: In last week’s column on gay weddings, I asked several questions, including why one woman wore pants, and why the couple’s future children would take her last name. Both these choices could serve to promote traditionally dominant “male” roles in our society. Turns out, that wasn’t the case at all. One woman wore pants because she had only worn pants for years. She hates dresses. And why one last name vs. the other? Because that woman’s family had no one else who could carry on the family name. It would have died with this generation. So bravo to making human choices, personal choices that transcend sexual politics. The ultimate sign of change is when we make decisions as people, not men or women.

And that’s the good word.

Send your thoughts, comments, and critiques to the Heritage or email dsb328@gmail.com.

 

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