At the very least, Mr. Netanyahu’s appearance before AIPAC and a joint session of Congress has elevated the issue of Iranian nuclear program aspirations to the forefront, where it should have been all along.
While the talk seems to center on the optics of Netanyahu’s appearances this week, and how they came to be, that talk is just another straw man diversion from the true dangers represented by Iran. The optics are very simply the result of a narcissist, President Obama, having been taken to the woodshed by Netanyahu. George Will summarized it well as “a conflict between a former community organizer and a former commando.” Place your bets!
Mark Knoller reported today that Secretary Kerry said “any deal” with Iran would make Israel safer. The implication here is that the desire for a deal – any deal – is the primary motivation for Kerry and the administration.
Historical context on these issues is important. The initial Western negotiations with Iran took place in the 2003 – 2005 time frame. At that time the moniker was the “EU3”: France, Germany and the U.K. The “three” were concerned that the U.S. was not sophisticated enough to deal with the issue; they were also in fear of a negative economic impact related to Iran.
China, Russia and the U.S. joined the effort in 2006, birthing the P5+1. That would be the same China and Russia that, for years, vetoed harsh sanctions against Iran. It would also be the same Russia contracted by Iran to build the Bushehr nuclear reactor.
The 2003 proposal by the EU3 documented Iranian uranium enrichment activity. By 2005, the counter proposals by Iran narrowed and focused specifically on the facility at Natanz. Later that year, Iran rejected a series of proposals by the Europeans and introduced a requirement that Iran’s “right” to enrichment be respected. In 2006 Iran took the rejection a step further, insisting that even the suspension of nuclear enrichment was unacceptable.
The Iranian rejection motivated the (now) P5+1 to offer a more specific package of benefits to Iran in 2008 – the stick abandoned, in the interest of the carrot. Later that year the Iranians held out their own carrot to the West, a proposed framework full of vague milestones like “as soon as confidence is restored.”
What also happened in 2008 – as reported by the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press on February 20, by IAEA on February 22, and by the Institute for Science and International Security on February 14 – was the U.S. revelation of information based on a stolen Iranian laptop computer that contained design drawings for a nuclear weapon. The suspicion was that the plans were originally developed by A.Q. Khan for the Pakistani nuclear program. As previously documented by my colleagues at Liberty Unyielding, we knew all of that seven years ago.
In 2009, Iran, in essence, repeated the 2008 proposals. But those proposals did not include addressing the nuclear program issues. They focused instead on terrorism, crime, UN reform, rights for the use of space and “equitable IAEA” oversight.
The result of seven years of negotiation saw Iran in 2010 begin to enrich uranium to 20%, the last step before enrichment to weapons grade material. In 2012, the 20% enrichment operation was moved to the Fordow facility, which had been kept secret by Iran prior to 2009. In 2013, a number of sanctions were lifted as part of the “Joint Plan of Action” deal to continue P5+1 negotiations.
The negotiations, proposals, and counter proposals continue to this day some 12 years after they commenced. The only tangible results that one can point to are (a) relief of the sanctions that drove Iran to its current acceptance of “renewed” negotiations, and (b) the expansion of the Iranian nuclear program – including the ongoing discovery of previously unknown covert facilities clearly dedicated to the pursuit of nuclear bomb-making capability. (An earlier, similar discovery was reported in 2013.)
The question poses itself: after 12 years of feckless, non-productive negotiations, and 12 years of Iran buying time based on Western appeasement and “wanting to believe,” why should Prime Minister Netanyahu not speak publicly to the American political establishment (and by extension, to us, the people)? The West refuses to acknowledge that Israel is the canary in the Iranian nuclear coal mine, and that additional proliferation across the region is nearly guaranteed in the event of an Iranian nuclear weapon.
Saudi Arabia, for example, reportedly funded the Pakistani nuclear weapons effort, and in return has to right to the fruits of that program – which means months, not years, to a Saudi nuclear weapons capability. Explosive rhetoric by Iran is not limited to Israel; Saudi Arabia has also been in the Iranian gun sight. Consider the “Goldfinger” scenario whereby Saudi oil production is eliminated by an Iranian nuclear device, something that could be done with a relatively small device. The distances involved are already, like Israel, within range of Iranian capabilities.
It is, in the final analysis both sad and telling that we may come to depend on a foreign leader, Netanyahu, to speak the truth to the American public. Welcome, Bibi!