Israeli Security Experts Offer Divergent Views on Iran Nuclear Deal

Not All Agree With Benjamin Netanyahu's Assessment

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By Nathan Jeffay

Published November 29, 2013.
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As for relaxation of economic sanctions against Iran, he said he believes that the value of concessions may be as much as double the $7 billion that is being reported, but he is convinced that the impact will be minimal — pointing, to support his point, to the minor spikes in Iranian currency and stocks following the deal. “The sanctions that matter are not being lifted,” he said.

Yaari believes that Israel should concentrate on diplomatic efforts to shape a permanent deal so that it caps enrichment, transforms Arak from a heavy-water to a light-water site and obligates Iran to sign the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which increases IAEA inspection rights.

He thinks that Netanyahu will have to take a more constructive attitude toward negotiations. “We have to convince Western governments and public opinion that we are not the spoilers,” Yaari said.

Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project at the Institute for National Security Studies, foresees the six-month interim period as a fraught one full of complaints from Iran.

“I would expect that the Iranians are going to be challenging everything in the deal,” she said, suggesting that the Islamic Republic will claim repeatedly that the West isn’t keeping the deal in good faith.

Landau said that the Geneva deal “leaves a lot of room, not only because of possible clandestine facilities, but also because of differences in interpretation.” She said that there are already indications that Iran and Western states interpret the deal differently.

Landau thinks that Israel should concentrate on discussions with its allies aimed at dismantling Iran’s nuclear program. She is skeptical of arrangements that merely reduce the strength of the uranium being enriched.

While Yaari sees Iran’s concession to neutralize its 20%-enriched uranium as a game-changer, Landau thinks that technological advances in Iran mean that a bomb could now be built speedily from lower-percentage uranium. “With the new advanced centrifuges, it can be done very quickly from 3.5%,” she said. Under the interim deal, Iran can keep uranium of less than 5% concentration, and enrich more of it.

While Landau is pessimistic about the diplomatic process, she believes that if it does work out, it could be good for Israel — and not only because it would deal with the nuclear threat. If Iran built a relationship with America and other Western states, it would tone down its rhetoric against Israel, she expects. There would be “spillover benefits” for Israel.

Landau’s colleague Amos Yadlin takes a far more optimistic view of the deal. Yadlin, one of Israel’s most respected analysts, said that it is not “the agreement of our dreams,” but was the best course of action open to the international community.

Yadlin became director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies in 2011, shortly after completing a five-year term as the Israeli military’s chief of defense intelligence. During a conference call with journalists he countered the claim that the West made a mistake offering Iran limited sanctions relief, saying that it was “wishful thinking” to imagine that Iran would have agreed to a better deal if it felt more pain. A tougher stance by the West could well have prevented any agreement, he said. Furthermore, if some Western countries insisted on this course of action, others could have decided to waive sanctions, he said, breaking the international unity that has been of prime importance in confronting Iran.


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