Anger at last – but too late? 188

The Antagonists

(Picture via PowerLine)

At last Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu seems fully to have grasped that President Barack Obama is his enemy.

We quote from DebkaFile (not always an entirely reliable source, but this report is in broad agreement with many others, only more detailed):

The interim nuclear accord negotiated directly between Washington and Tehran was already secretly in the bag before the two-day talks between Iran and the Six World powers took place in Geneva Thursday and Friday. The plan was for a ceremonial signing to take place Friday, Nov. 8, after US Secretary of State John Kerry flew in from Jerusalem and the Iranian Foreign Minister confirmed “the general outline of an agreement.”

Half a dozen foreign ministers from across the globe flew into Geneva to add their signatures to the interim accord.

But the signing did not take place and the event dragged on into Saturday, Nov. 9.

France refused to sign.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius remarked: “There is an initial draft that we do not accept … I have no certainty that we can finish up.” He also referred to the concerns of Iran’s neighbors in the Middle East. …

The US president’s phone conversation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (“This is a very, very bad deal!”) early Saturday was a lot more heated. It took place after a three-day visit by John Kerry, which DEBKAfile’s sources reported Wednesday hardly touched on the Palestinian question: Most of the time he was on the phone to the US delegation in Geneva, the White House and the Iranian Foreign Minister.

From those conversations, Netanyahu learned to his dismay that the version of the accord he had received from Kerry in the first of their three conversations differed substantially from the outline prepared for signing in Geneva – especially in the key clause of sanctions relief.

Considerable relief – chiefly the release of Iranian funds frozen in in the West* – was being offered by Obama before the Iranians have done a thing to halt its nuclear program. He is prepared – even eager – to throw away the West’s most potent negotiating advantage, the very sanction that brought Iran to negotiate. We think this is one of the strongest indications that Obama positively wants Iran to become a nuclear-armed power.

This discovery precipitated the most furious row Friday ever heard by any US or Israeli official between an Israeli leader and an American official.

Netanyahu angrily confronted Kerry with the charge that the Obama administration had deceived Israel every step of the way by letting Iran continue to clandestinely develop the prohibited military elements of its nuclear program, including the underground enrichment plan in Fordo; the heavy water plant for plutonium production in construction in Arak; uranium enrichment up to 20 percent purity; and now, the last straw, sanctions.

As usual, Obama lied.

While Obama and Kerry have admitted only to lifting “a few minor reversible sanctions” and “modest’ sanctions relief as part of the deal, Israel discovered a far more generous package of concessions was on offer. The Europeans would lead the way in easing sanctions to allow Washington to show clean hands – especially to Congress.

By Friday, the Iranians understood that the Obama administration was so hell-bent on signing the first ever international accord on their nuclear program, that they could afford without much risk to up the price for their signature and extort more last-minute concessions.

So will Israel now take action against Iran?

The Times of Israel conjectures: “Agitated Netanyahu wonders if he left it too late” – to stop Iran becoming a nuclear power by bombing its nuclear facilities.

It goes on:

The prime minister’s very public horror at the deal taking shape in Geneva reflects his concern that he is failing in what he sees as his central mission. …

Thwarting Iran’s nuclear weapons drive has been the central mission of Netanyahu’s prime ministership. And he has been deeply worried these past few months — since the election of Hassan Rouhani in June gave Iran a smiling new public face, and since US President Barack Obama’s public volte face on a punitive strike against Syria’s President Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons against two months later — that the West was going to cut a lousy deal with Tehran that would leave at least part of the Islamic Republic’s enrichment capabilities intact.

Evidently unimpressed by Obama’s reassurance to him at the White House in late September that the United States would be negotiating “clear-eyed” with Iran, the prime minister headed straight to the United Nations General Assembly in New York to declare that, even if everybody else was fooled by the Rouhani charm offensive, and was ready to take Iran’s “we don’t want the bomb” claims at face value, Israel would “stand alone” against the Iranians’ bid for nuclear weapons.

But this weekend, his concern has been elevated to new heights. … Friday night’s Israeli TV news programs suggested that the prime minister feels he has been misled by the Obama administration, and that the offer put on the table to the Iranians in Geneva — which would allow them to continue to enrich uranium to 3.5% and thus, in Israel’s assessment, to establish themselves as a “breakout” state capable of racing to the bomb at a time of their choosing — is far more dangerous than anything he had anticipated. As he declared Friday in [a]  highly agitated Ben Gurion Airport appearance, Iran, under the deal on the table, “gets everything that it wanted at this stage and pays nothing.”

Ensconcing himself as the prime public face of international opposition to the deal taking shape in Geneva, Netanyahu openly acknowledged that he had pleaded with Kerry “not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal… This is a bad deal, a very, very bad deal. It’s the deal of a century for Iran; it’s a very dangerous and bad deal for peace and the international community.”

Underpinning the prime minister’s undisguised horror at the direction of the Geneva talks was his worry that he has mishandled the crisis. Nobody could credibly assert that Netanyahu has failed to sound the international alarm. He has been warning the world relentlessly about Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, and his constant highlighting of the danger played a central role in pushing the international community into the sanctions that finally brought Tehran to the negotiating table.

What the prime minister is likely asking himself this weekend, however, is whether he should have moved from warnings to action — whether the moment for his threatened resort to force has already come and gone.

Persistent reports have suggested that Netanyahu did want to intervene militarily in the past, most particularly in the summer of 2012, and that he was deterred by opposition from the United States and from Israel’s own security chiefs, past and present. Others close to him, however, insist that had Netanyahu truly believed that it was a case of now or never for a military strike, he would have ordered one. “If he had thought that military action was crucial at the time, he would have acted,” Tzachi Hanegbi, the Likud MK, and former minister for nuclear affairs, who is closer than most others in the party to the prime minister, told this writer just a few days ago.

Hanegbi added that Netanyahu “most likely decided not to [resort to force in the past] because there are great advantages to waiting until Israel comes as close as possible to the limits of its tolerance. Because when that point is reached, we can use all of the previous restraint as a very powerful tool for strengthening the legitimacy of our actions.”

For Netanyahu now, though, the question [is] whether he has waited too long. As he made crystal clear in that UN address, he is certain that “Iran is developing nuclear weapons” and he believes that ”when a radical regime with global ambitions gets awesome power, sooner or later its appetite for aggression knows no bounds.”

He vowed in that speech that Israel would “not allow” Tehran to get the bomb. But now the entire international community is publicly lined up in search of an accord with the ostensibly newly moderate Iran. If a deal — however “bad” and “dangerous” — is being done by diplomats led by the United States, can Israel seriously contemplate defying the world and taking on Iran militarily?

The French refusal to sign the outline of agreement must have somewhat mitigated Israel’s fear of being up against “the entire international community” if it decides to take action.

But Israel should have destroyed as much as it could of Iran’s nuclear installations in 2012. Now it might really be too late. Netanyahu was misled, and he made the wrong judgment, so both anger and self-reproach are appropriate.

If France wants to seize an opportunity it has created for itself to take the lead on this most important international issue (and France has long resented US hegemony, so it might), it will encourage Israel to take the only action that can really stop Iran carrying out its evil designs – raining destruction on the Iranian factories of death.


* From today’s Debkafile: Western sources with access to the closed-door deliberations held in Geneva from Thursday to Saturday reveal that for the sake of a deal, Washington was ready to offer Iran a sanctions relief package worth nearly $20bn, to save the Iranian economy from bankruptcy. Secretary of State John Kerry told Iran’s foreign minister the US was ready to advance at once $3 billion of the estimated $50 billion of Iranian assets frozen in Western banks, and also end restrictions on Iranian’s gold, petrochemical and car industries. This would have netted the Iranian treasury another $16.5 billion. Zarif asked the package to also include restoring SWIFT foreign transfer services to Iranian banks. Both Washington and Tehran counted on a deal being clinched at the Geneva conference. Following its disappointing outcome, the Iranian regime is gripped with rising concern that the country’s further plunge into economic crisis may touch off violent protests and street demonstrations that could spill over into a popular uprising.