The PJ Tatler

Even With Iran Nuke Deal, the Military Option is Back on the Table for Israel

An alarming article in the Jerusalem Post reports that Israel may take military action against Iranian nuclear sites even if a deal being negotiated between Iran and the west is reached.

The Israelis point to several concessions made by the west that does not reassure them of Iran’s intent with its nuclear program.

In fact, Israel sees these concessions as a threat. One official cited a “sunset clause” in proposed comprehensive deal, which guarantees Iran a path into the nuclear club and may corner Israel into war.”

But reflecting on the deal under discussion with The Jerusalem Post on the eve of the deadline, Israel has issued a stark, public warning to its allies with a clear argument: Current proposals guarantee the perpetuation of a crisis, backing Israel into a corner from which military force against Iran provides the only logical exit.

World powers have presented Iran with an accord that would restrict its nuclear program for roughly ten years and cap its ability to produce fissile material for a weapon during that time to a minimum nine-month additional period, from the current three months.

Should Tehran agree, the deal may rely on Russia to convert Iran’s current uranium stockpile into fuel rods for peaceful use. The proposal would also include an inspection regime that would attempt to follow the program’s entire supply chain, from the mining of raw material to the syphoning of that material to various nuclear facilities across Iran.

Israel’s leaders believe the best of a worst-case scenario, should that deal be reached, is for inspections to go perfectly and for Iran to choose to abide by the deal for the entire decade-long period.

But “our intelligence agencies are not perfect,” an Israeli official said. “We did not know for years about Natanz and Qom. And inspection regimes are certainly not perfect. They weren’t in the case in North Korea, and it isn’t the case now – Iran’s been giving the IAEA the run around for years about its past activities.”

“What’s going to happen with that?” the official continued. “Are they going to sweep that under the rug if there’s a deal?”

On Saturday afternoon, reports from Vienna suggested the P5+1 – the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – are willing to stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran.

Speaking to the Post, a senior US official rejected concern over limited surveillance capabilities, during or after a deal.

“If we can conclude a comprehensive agreement, we will have significantly more ability to detect covert facilities – even after its duration is over – than we do today,” the senior US official said. “After the duration of the agreement, the most intrusive inspections will continue: the Additional Protocol – which encompasses very intrusive transparency, and which Iran has already said it will implement – will continue.”

That may be wishful thinking. In fact, the inspection regime falls short of being “intrusive,” as Iran will still be able to deny immediate access to their facilities. In other words, no “snap” inspections. And without full disclosure of Iran’s previous bomb making efforts, the inspectors may not even know where to look for dual-purpose facilities.

Meanwhile, the calculus for and against Israel taking military action to degrade or destroy Iranian nuclear infrastructure hasn’t changed, except it’s probably a more difficult mission than it was 2 years ago. Facilities have been hardened or built underground. Even with an attack lasting several days, there’s no guarantee that Israel can destroy enough of Iran’s nuclear program to make big difference.

But given the threat, Israel may feel itself backed into a corner and would attack anyway. And as the J-Post article makes clear, it may not matter what kind of deal might be reached between Iran and the west.