October 7, 2014 | The Jewish Chronicle

Soon, Only Obstacle to an Iranian Bomb Will Be the Israeli Air Force

As the November 24 deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran approaches, there is no sign of an agreement. Despite upbeat public comments by Western officials that a deal is still possible, little progress has been made since Iran and the six world powers signed an interim agreement in Geneva almost a year ago. If there is a deal by November 24, it is because the West will fold and concede to Iran's demands.

Iran is sticking to its goals of retaining its nuclear infrastructure intact while peeling away at the sanctions architecture that crippled its economy. The six world powers are blurring their own red lines on every element of the negotiations in the hope of attaining any deal they can tout as success.

By obtaining recognition for a right of enrichment in the interim agreement, Iran already undermined six UN Security Council resolutions and established the principle that whatever else happens, its indigenous nuclear enrichment programme will remain in place.

By exacting sanctions relief early on, Iran changed market psychology and improved the fundamentals of its economy. Whereas a year ago Iran's economy was still on a downward trajectory, all now points to slow but steady economic recovery. And by refusing to budge on any substantive issue, Iran is ensuring that, if a deal is to be had, its ability to march on to a nuclear weapon will only be delayed but not scuttled.

Recent news leaks about US negotiators' creative solutions to the apparent negotiating impasse must be seen in this light. Their initial goal was to scale down Iran's industrial-size enrichment from the current 19,000 installed IR-1 centrifuges to a symbolic number, which French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius indicated would be in the hundreds. Over months of talks, numbers floated in the press varied, from 1,500 to 7,500. If Iran were to keep its entire arsenal of centrifuges intact – disabling the piping that connects them – it would be able to move back towards enriching at present levels by simply reinstalling the piping.

Although that would be a violation, the time then required for Iran's technicians to restore the status quo ante would be much faster than the speed at which the international community would react.

In short, the US idea, touted as “creative” by American sources, is as creative as making the guillotine preferable to hanging, since the end result does not differ that much.

There are the other retreats from previously heralded “red lines”. Iran's ballistic missile programme is no longer part of the negotiations. Iran's stonewalling with the International Atomic Energy Agency about the nuclear programme's clandestine military dimensions is getting a pass. Iran's history of nuclear procurement will not likely be documented in full. A new verification regime will not be as stringent as required, given Iran's history of nuclear deception. And the duration of the deal will not be decades, but merely years – which means that, once the deal has expired, Iran's nuclear programme will be treated like that of the UK, Germany or the Netherlands.

In the seven weeks left to the 24 November deadline, it is unlikely that Iran will concede what its counterparts are no longer demanding and offer what they are asking for without much conviction. If a deal emerges on November 24, it will be a bad one. After which, the only thing that stands between Iran and a nuclear bomb is the Israeli Air Force.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies in Washington DC.

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