So it looks like a deal has been reached between Iran and the P5+1 nations. (Here is a fact sheet on the deal put out by the White House.) This is supposed to be an interim deal until a more comprehensive deal is worked out in six months. Juan Cole looks at what both sides got in the deal.
In response for a loosening of sanctions, worth some $7 billion to Iran, President Hasan Rouhani undertook to freeze enrichment activities at their present level. He also pledged to cast Iran’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 19.75% for the production of medical isotopes in a form that makes it impossible to further enrich it. Nor will Iran produce more 19.5% low enriched uranium. (Uranium enriched to 95% is suitable for a bomb, and the Western diplomats figure that 19.75% is closer to 95% than is the stock of uranium enriched to 3.5% to serve as fuel for the three nuclear power plants at Bushehr. Iran also agreed to do no further work on its proposed heavy-water reactor at Arak. (Heavy-water reactors produce plutonium, with which bombs can easily be constructed).
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sees any kind of rapprochement with Iran as a bad thing, is not happy and is calling the agreement a ‘historic mistake’ and you can be sure that he and his many allies in the US Congress and media will try to scuttle the deal. They are using the usual apocalyptic language that we have come to expect.
“Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world,” the prime minister said.
Netanyahu repeated a reference to his own red line by stating,, “Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability.”
Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economic minister and key member of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, said, “if a nuclear suitcase blows up in New York or Madrid five years from now, it will be because of the deal that was signed this morning.”
“If there will be a deal which would allow Iran to have the ability to ‘break out’ and build a bomb within six weeks, we cannot sit idly by in this situation, and we will examine all the options,” Bennett told Israel’s Channel 2 on Saturday night.
While the Israel lobby is undoubtedly powerful (Jeffrey Rosen of AIPAC, the most influential member of the Israel lobby, famously boasted of their power saying, “You see this napkin? In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”), two recent concerted efforts by them (to prevent Chuck Hagel becoming Defense Secretary and to get the US to attack Syria) both failed, the latter because of massive US public opposition.
US public opinion is in favor of a negotiated deal with Iran but it is not clear that it is as strong as the opposition to war with Syria, so today president Obama has to spend a lot of time once again soothing Netanyahu’s hurt feelings. Max Blumenthal recalls the time when Obama and then French president Sarkozy were caught on an open mike expressing their irritation with Netanyahu. Sarkozy told Obama “I can’t stand Netanyahu. He’s a complete liar” to which Obama replied, “You think you can’t stand him? I have to deal with him every day.” Blumenthal adds, “He can’t stand him but must constantly meet with him.” Obama has effectively become what Philip Weiss calls a ‘Bibi sitter’, trying to calm him down.
What is clear is that the prospect of war with Iran, the neoconservatives’ dream, is rapidly slipping away and that has to be seen as a good thing. Despite Israel’s threats, it is unthinkable that Israel would actually attack Iran just after this deal was finalized. Obama will likely let Netanyahu save face by allowing him even greater freedom with settlement expansions (after all, who cares if the Palestinians lose yet more of their land and are marginalized even more) and giving Israel more weapons and financial aid. After all, US policy has been that while strict limits must be imposed on every other nation’s weaponry, Israel must not only have no limits but must be aided in its militarization.