What's Bibi's Iran Strategy?

An interim deal has been made with Iran, ignoring the admonitions of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and capitulating to Iran on all important points.  There has been much written about how Arab countries will respond but not much about the possible Israeli response.

The Obama administration had essentially two reactions to Netanyahu’s address to Congress: Netanyahu said nothing new and offered no alternative to the agreement being negotiated with Iran.  The former is irrelevant; the issue is not whether Netanyahu said anything new.  The relevant question is whether what he said is true.  If so, then it bears repeating, because the Obama administration has lost sight of the goal, which was, ostensibly at least, to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear capability. 

As to the latter, the Obama administration has a point, in a way.  What Netanyahu said is the truth and nothing but the truth, but he did not tell the whole truth. 

The administration maintains that there is no alternative to the agreement being finalized except war.  Netanyahu said the alternative to this agreement is a better agreement, because the mullahs need the agreement more than the Americans. 

On the other hand, Netanyahu pointed out that Iran has consistently cheated on its commitments and obligations, has lied and stonewalled the IAEA inspectors, and clearly cannot be trusted. 

There is no reason to enter into a contract with someone who cannot be trusted.  No lawyer in the world is smart enough to write a contract that will protect you against a scoundrel.  The best that can be done is to give you a good case in court.  But there is no court that can enforce Iranian compliance with the agreement.  No international court has the military and economic means to coerce Iran to comply.  The other parties to the agreement have to enforce the agreement.  Ultimately, they must be ready to use force against violations.

How likely is that?  If Iran is caught running too many centrifuges, will the 5+1 go to war?  Certainly not.  There might be some low-level sanction, which will not stop the centrifuges.  Once the world is doing business again with a petroleum-rich Iran, reimposing real sanctions is not clearly doable in the present economic climate. 

If the mullahs are caught developing weaponization technology, who will go to war?  The U.S.?  Obama will not send the U.S. military against Iran, and if the U.S. will not go, no one will.  And the mullahs know that.  They will not test the first nuclear “device” on Iranian soil.  By the time they detonate a nuclear device in Iran (as opposed to North Korea or Pakistan), it will be too late.  They will have already have put away a stockpile. 

That being the case, why pursue a better agreement?  In reality, the Obama administration is right in saying that the alternative is war.  But the alternative to war is not an agreement.  The truth is that the alternatives are regime change, war or capitulation to Iran.  If Netanyahu were to tell the whole truth, he would have noted that the 5+1 do not seem to be engineering regime change, and he would have asked whether the U.S. and the rest of the 5+1 have decided to capitulate to Iran.  If they have not, then would they prefer to go to war now or when Iran is armed with nuclear weapons? 

In fact, it appears that Obama has decided to capitulate.  There are reports emanating recently from Jordan that the U.S. has told Arab countries that Iran is to be America’s full partner in the Middle East and they will have to cultivate their relations with the mullahs.  (See here, citing Oraib Rantawi, described as a “senior Jordanian commentator, close to the Royal Court.”)  If accurate, the realignment of American policy is clearly the impetus behind the sudden Jordan-Iran alliance.  It also means that Obama was lying all along about his commitment to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear capability and was in fact protecting the Iranian nuclear project, and that everything, including the sanctions on Iran, was only to forestall Israeli action against Iran. 

This is consistent with reports that Obama also derailed an Israeli strike by publicly trumpeting intelligence that it would be launched from Azerbaijan and that, last year, he prevented Israel from mounting a strike by warning that the U.S. would shoot down Israeli planes en route to Iran – i.e., that the USA would act as Iran's first line of defense against Israel.

That would also explain Netanyahu’s assertion that the days of Jewish helplessness in the face of genocidal hatred are over, and that if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.  Either that was a non sequitur for the purpose of bravado or it tells the world that it had better return the sanctions in order to deter Israel again.  Sanctions will not stop the centrifuges, of course, any more than sanctions stopped the North Korean government from pursuing nuclear capability, even while the masses starved to death, quite literally.  So why does it make sense to return full sanctions on Iran?  It makes sense because the regime of the mullahs is unstable and vulnerable at this time, and sanctions, coupled with other stressful measures, might cause it to fall, unlike in 2009. 

As noted, the question is not only about this agreement.  Any agreement with Iran is worthless and is simply surrender with a fig leaf to hide America’s shame and the shame of the rest of the free world.  Netanyahu surely knows that.  If so, what did he want to accomplish with the speech? 

For one thing, he certainly wants to derail the agreement.  With no agreement, it might be possible to get full sanctions reimposed.  As it appears now, coercing Israeli inaction was the sole purpose of the imposition of sanctions – not deterring Iran from its imperialist and genocidal course, but to deter Israel from striking at the Iranian nuclear installations.  It was Obama running interference for the mullahs by creating the pretext of a diplomatic process to compel suicidal Israeli inaction in the face of a genocidal threat.  It also gave him time to pursue the hidden agenda of his radical reorientation of American foreign policy. 

Another possible explanation is that Netanyahu’s purpose was to marshal support in the Congress for a pre-emptive Israeli strike, which might be extreme and might elicit extreme responses by Islamic terrorists all over the world against the West especially.  I am not knowledgeable of the relevant military matters and I do not know what military options Israel might have.  For all I know, it might be that the only way Israel has is to nuke Iran back to the Stone Age.

If the Islamic Republic falls, that will not be necessary.  Is that Netanyahu's purpose?  We don't know.

The writer has practiced law in New York, California and Israel for a multi-national clientele including Israeli NGOs and was also a law professor in Los Angeles.  He has practiced law in Jerusalem since 1986 and has contributed numerous opinion pieces to various media outlets.