Is Israeli PM Netanyahu’s Case against Iran Collapsing?

(By Juan Cole)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has determinedly beaten the drums for war with Iran, though his lack of any actual overt action on that front has suggested to many observers that he uses the Iran issue to distract the international community from the Israel project of annexing the Palestinian West Bank and keeping Gaza a huge outdoor prison.

But even the plausibility of Netanyahu’s assertions about Iran have increasingly been brought into question by Israeli officials themselves.

This week Uzi Eilam, a former head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Agency, insisted that Iran is at least a decade from having nuclear weapons capability and suggested that Iran probably does not even want such a capability. Netanyahu has been saying Iran is around the corner from the bomb since at least the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors confirmed that Iran is upholding its side of the bargain struck with the US and the UN Security Council when negotiations began last fall. Iran has diluted 75% of its stock of uranium enriched to 19.75 percent. That stockpile, intended to fuel Iran’s medical reactor to produce isotopes for treating cancer, had been of concern because Western powers felt it would be easier to enrich it further, to the 95% needed for a nuclear bomb, than is the case with the 5% enriched uranium used in nuclear power plants.

Another stumbling block is Iran’s construction of a heavy water reactor at Arak. Heavy water reactors typically produce plutonium, which can be used in bomb-building. But Iranian officials say they are entirely willing to modify the Arak nuclear facility so as to forestall it producing significant amounts of plutonium.

Israeli propaganda has gone on and on about Iran denying the Holocaust, as though it were a consensus position in the Iranian elite (it is not). Nor is it entirely clear what it has to do with anything. In any case, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told German media that the Holocaust was a ‘horrifying tragedy’ that must not be repeated and defended his stance before parliament. He implicitly argues that former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial made Iran a laughingstock in international diplomacy and made it easier for Israel and the US to isolate it and heavily sanction it.

Iran’s increasing transparency about its civilian nuclear enrichment program, which it insists is for electricity generation, its acknowledgment of the Holocaust, and its willingness to go an extra mile to allay Western fears, are hallmarks of the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, who was elected last summer. Rouhani’s Iran isn’t so easy to turn into a pariah, though it is still heavily sanctioned.

No such posture can, moreover, be misunderstood by the world community in such a way that they might authorize military force there.

Netanyahu is losing the argument.

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RT: “Allies ask Netanyahu not to undermine Iran deal without credible ‘plan B'”

10 Responses

  1. We hope you are right. Hope so fervently. (Cf. Iraq circa 2000.) And if so, thank you for your part in getting to this point.

  2. It is not an argument and never has been. It is a ploy by Netanyahu to divert world attention from illegal and immoral Israeli actions. Craven politicians in the US and Europe have gone along with the lie even though they knew better since their own intelligence services told them repeatedly that there was no Iranian nuclear weapons program? Why? Was it guilt, fear of political or financial backlash or some other reason? Whatever the reason, the Netanyahu big lie is now fully exposed and the world is waking up, except , of course for the US politicians, especially the bought and sold Congress.

  3. “Israeli propaganda has gone on and on about Iran denying the Holocaust, …”

    Israeli propaganda has gone on and on about denying the existence of a Palestine and Palestinian people.

    • Good one! Also, as far as I know, the Israeli constitution does not acknowlege the United State’ “right to exist.” How can the US possibly deal with people like that?

  4. It was Israel’s own civilian nuclear regulatory agency in the mid-1960s that had suspected that Israel had been acquiring a nuclear bomb capability and publicly warned that this conduct could open up Israel to international vilification.

    Canadian intelligence agents in the early 1960s had doggedly pursued information Israel had been in the process of acquiring enriched uranium from Argentina in bulk quantities.

    Israel had conducted some of the earliest research in the 1950s in the manufacture of heavy water and in the early 1960s purchased bulk quantities of heavy water from Great Britain using the Norwegian front company Noratom to acquire 20 tons of heavy water with the express proviso that it would not be used for construction of atomic weaponry.

    Defense Secretary McNamara opposed Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weaponry but the U.S. was given a runaround when they attempted to investigate information the Argentine government was selling large quantities of yellowcake to Israel.

    Israel is strongly believed to have secretly detonated a four-kiloton nuclear device in the Indian Ocean during a joint project with South Africa in 1979 that was detected by the Defense Intelligence Agency via a Vela satellite and the U.S. oceanic hydrophone network.

    Israel likely acquired its A-bomb capability in 1967-69 and a hydrogen bomb capability during the mid-1980s.

    Israel’s current foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has previously publicly bandied about the possibility of a nuclear option in Gaza and also bombing the Aswan Dam in Egypt.

    Israel, only last year for the very first time, has capitulated in allowing an IAEA inspection of its Soreq nuclear reactor but has failed to ever permit IAEA inspectors access to the Dimona reactor facility that had been designed by French engineers in the 1950s and hidden following construction with palm groves to avoid overhead reconnaissance detection. The U.S. first became aware of the site during a U-2 overflight in 1958.

    Israel has become a menacing nuclear power in the Middle East in a manner that has repeatedly alarmed even its own civilian atomic regulatory authorities. The real danger to world peace from nuclear weaponry emanates not from Iran, but rather from Israel, and the international community has been habitually laggard in addressing this serious problem.

  5. Moji Agha

    Thank you Prof. Cole for this analysis. The sad fact is that the unhappiness of Iran’s extremist warmongers (with President Rouhani’s peaceful policies) mirrors that of war criminals like Netanyahu and his right-wing American backers. This mutual interdependence was pointed out over 60 years ago, when Dr. Mossadegh said “external colonialism” and “internal despotism” are two sides of the same coin.
    Moji Agha, Founder, Mossadegh Legacy Institute
    link to mossadeghlegacyinstitute.blogspot.com

  6. “Heavy water reactors typically produce plutonium, which can be used in bomb-building”.

    All reactors which use uranium as a fuel produce plutonium regardless of the moderator used. The reactors used to produce the plutonium for the Nagasaki bomb were not heavy-water moderated but used graphite as the moderator.

    A heavy-water reactor can be designed to use natural uranium as a fuel so it is possible to build a reactor without developing enrichment technology.

  7. Let’s not forget that for Israel, fears of Iranian nukes serve as a propaganda justification for what they really want, unending sanctions. Israel does not think Iran is going to nuke them, but by waving around cartoonish pictures of bombs and engaging in an equally inept lying campaign about Iran, Netanyahu hopes to prevent Iran [a country of 80 million with natural resources and a well-educated population] from rising to its proper place among the countries of the region, a process that would necessarily diminish Israel’s ability to act with impunity.

    Israel and her tireless special pleaders can’t have that, can they?

  8. The simple reality is Bibi has completely LOST because the US is trying to get the “best” deal they can before all the third-party sanctions fall apart before the end of 2014. Business 101 clearly states that ALL market and trade opportunities will be filled for fun and profit and that smuggling to avoid barriers to basic trade has gone on as long as humans have traded. The US can not enforce third-party sanctions on Iran’s trading partners without eventually heavily endangering US trade organizations and severely hurting the US economy. It is very likely that after the US 2014 mid-term elections, the US will sign agreements with Iran and lift most of the sanctions (long after they become completely in effective). Sure Bibi will howl, but no one other than a few US right-wing entertainers will listen and US companies will welcome the additional trade (if the Chinese and Europeans have left any). Bib may even threaten an attack, but the IDF leadership KNOW that any such attack would fail terribly and would drastically weaken Israel. As a result, the IDF (which is already very short of cash) will let Bibi rant, but not actually let him do anything. The IDF know that Israel could lose as much as 60% of any aircraft they use to attack Iran, leaving Israel critically un-defended. No one is buying what Bibi is selling which is probably frustrating to a small relatively powerless nation that aspires to be another China or US.

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