One of the many stumbling blocks – if not the biggest one – that immediately emerged to impede the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program (recently signed by the group of six world powers) is the position of Israel. «The world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday» – with these words, that country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, began his assessment of the accord, which was broadcast to the world in English. He called it «a stunning historic mistake».
«The leading international powers have bet our collective future on a deal with the foremost sponsor of international terrorism. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide [and] its aggression in the region,» noted the prime minister. According to Netanyahu, there is no chance that a different regime will be in power in Tehran ten years from now when the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program are lifted, stating, «[This is] removing any incentive for it to do so. In fact, the deal gives Iran every incentive not to change». The Israeli prime minister alleged that «this deal repeats the mistakes made with North Korea. There too we were assured that inspections and verifications would prevent a rogue regime from developing nuclear weapons. And we all know how that ended». Netanyahu emphasized that «Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran because Iran continues to seek our destruction. We will always defend ourselves».
What’s more, directly addressing the Israeli people, Netanyahu stated, «We did not promise not to undermine a deal with Iran… but promised to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons. We are still committed to this pledge… I say to all the leaders… now is the time to put aside petty politics and unite for the sake of the most crucial issue of the State of Israel’s future and security». He promised to launch a public campaign in the US against the agreement with Iran «in the next few hours». To this end, Netanyahu intends to move up the date of his US visit – currently scheduled for September – in order to begin his lobbying efforts within the US Congress.
Anticipating Israel’s furious reaction, as well as the disapproval of Saudi Arabia, US President Barack Obama immediately placed a personal telephone call to Netanyahu and King Salman after the deal was signed, attempting to placate their negative response to the agreement. He emphasized that the deal in no way affected the US commitment to its allies in the Middle East, above all to Israel. But neither of his counterparts were satisfied with his assurances.
On Tuesday night, Netanyahu convened a meeting of his security cabinet, during which his ministers unanimously rejected the deal, emphatically adding that Tel Aviv was in no way bound by it. The head of state also met with opposition leader Isaac Herzog. Netanyahu and Herzog agreed that from the Israeli perspective this was a «bad» agreement. The politicians consented to «show the world a united front on this issue, which is linked to Israel’s most significant national interest».
Experts are already discussing whether, given the current state of affairs, Israel will decide to carry out a unilateral air strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. We know for example that about two weeks ago, the Israeli army’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, appointed his deputy, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, to head a special task force to explore possible military responses to the potential agreement between the six world powers and Iran.
During one of the closed forums, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon noted that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will always reserve its military options, in case Israel should find herself completely isolated. At the same time, local observers believe that the country’s current government is not capable of making a dramatic decision to launch an attack like it did during Operation Opera in 1981, when it destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor. Any attempt to carry out a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be seen as a violent move against Western countries, involving them in a conflict that no one will know how to stop.
Experts believe that the real battle will now commence in the United States, where the visible and invisible forces of Israeli influence on that country will be put into motion, in accordance with all the laws of modern collective warfare, in order to prevent the deal from being ratified by Congress.
The Israeli military intelligence website DEBKAfile suggests that the stakes are fairly high in this game, as President Obama has made an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program into a cornerstone of his Middle East policy. And he clearly has no intension of backing down, especially so close to the upcoming presidential campaign. But from Netanyahu’s point of view, the success of this deal that he has so desperately fought against for many years would spell the end for his personal political ambitions. So he is also prepared to stand his ground.
When it comes to pushing the accord through the US Congress, analysts believe that the agreement’s fate now rests with Hillary Clinton, and that key figure seems to be the primary contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, because she is now the undeclared frontrunner in all the recent voter polls. The «key» to the Senate’s approval is in her hands, as the majority of the Republican senators have already expressed their opposition to the deal. According to some reports, in private conversations with some of her campaign’s Jewish donors, she has promised to be «a better friend to Israel than President Barack Obama». There is no doubt that as the election approaches, both she and her husband Bill Clinton will soon be subjected to serious pressure on this issue from the Jewish lobby. In addition, Israeli and Saudi intelligence will be making every effort to uncover the slightest evidence of any Iranian violations of the accords.
However, events are not unfolding to Israel’s liking. Reuters reports that according to US Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Brad Sherman, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a Tuesday address to House Democrats that she was in favor of the deal reached between Iran and the West, stating that the agreement «is worthy of support» from Congress. Clinton talked about the history of the Iran deal and events leading up to it, emphasizing that the accord «puts [the US] in a potentially stronger position».
This is apparently the primary rationale for the American position. When it comes to Washington’s global geopolitical interests, the US can easily disregard the concerns of any ally, even one as important as Israel. All that remains to be seen is whether the latter still has a case to make.