Column One: Israel and the new Munich
Catherine Ashton, Saeed Jalili during before talks Photo: REUTERS/Tolga Adanali/Pool
Speaking to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz explained Israel’s concerns about the nuclear negotiations with Iran in Geneva. “We’re worried Geneva 2013 will end up like Munich 1938.”
Well, the time for worrying has passed. The statements from the Obama administration and the EU following the closing of the first round of talks all made clear that Geneva 2013 is Munich 1938.
The White House was unable to restrain its excitement at the prospect of a deal with the genocidal, nuclear weapons-developing mullocracy.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “The Iranian proposal was a new proposal with a level of seriousness and substance that we had not seen before.”
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who led the six-power delegation that faced the Iranians, said that the talks were “the most detailed we have ever had, by a long way.”
Ashton also said that she is committed to making concessions to Iran as quickly as possible. In her words, “When we have been talking and in our discussions in these last days we know that we have to look for a first step, a confidencebuilding step, and we know we have to be clear about the last steps and to do that in the context of the objective overall.”
The stunning talks even included a one-on-one discussion between the chief US negotiator Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and the Iranians.
The only problem with all these exciting developments is that all the “serious Iranian proposals” would result in the same outcome: a nuclear-armed Iran. There was nothing in the Iranian proposals that could give anyone any reason whatsoever to believe that Iran is serious about stopping its nuclear weapons development program. Indeed, the only thing we learned this week is that like the Allied powers in 1938, the Obama administration and the Europeans have no stomach for a confrontation and are willing to dress up appeasement of a dangerous foe as “peace” and “progress.”
The Iranians have given no indication that they would be willing to suspend all uranium enrichment.
In his press conference after the current round of talks ended, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif insisted that Iran has the right to continue enriching uranium. The Iranian offer appears to involve suspending its 20 percent uranium enrichment activities and sufficing with enriching uranium to 3.5%.
As everyone from US Sen. Mark Kirk to the Washington Post editorial board to US President Barack Obama’s former chief pointman on Iran’s nuclear program Gary Samore have stated over the past several days, given Iran’s current enrichment capabilities, Iran’s offer is meaningless.
Over the past year, Iran has installed a thousand sophisticated centrifuges at its nuclear installation at Natanz. These new centrifuges allow Iran to transform 3.5% enriched uranium to bomb-grade material (enriched to 90%) as quickly as its old centrifuges were capable of transforming 20% enriched uranium to weapons-grade levels. So today, 3.5% enrichment is as comfortable a jumping-off point for the Iranian weapons program as 20% enrichment was a few years ago. Iran’s “serious proposal” is a joke.
As Samore told The New York Times, “Ending production of 20% enriched uranium is not sufficient to prevent breakout, because Iran can produce nuclear weapons using low-enriched uranium and a large number of centrifuge machines.”
In a conference call with the Israel Project Wednesday, Samore explained, “What they’re offering is really no different than what we’ve heard from the previous government, from [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad’s government for the last couple of years.... They continue to reject any physical limits on their enrichment capacity – meaning the number and type of centrifuge machines, the stockpile of enriched material that they have in country. And as far as I can tell, they have continued to reject closing any of their nuclear facilities... I haven’t heard of any agreement to halt work or to modify the heavy water research reactor that they’re building, and which may be close to operational.”
So the Iranians offered nothing this week that they didn’t offer in the past. And as a senior administration official told the Times, the Iranian program is already so advanced that for there to be time to negotiate a comprehensive agreement, Iran needs to first take steps to halt or even reverse its nuclear program.
And as Samore explained, none of the reports on the conclusion of this week’s round of talks indicated any Iranian willingness to take such actions.
The negotiations in Geneva bear an unsettling resemblance to the negotiations the West held with North Korea as it developed nuclear weapons. There, too, Western negotiators bragged about new, serious and unprecedented North Korean “concessions.”
Pyongyang used the talks to undermine Western resolve to block its nuclear progress.
Just as happened with North Korea, so with Iran, the appeasement-crazed press will bring us endless stories about new, serious negotiations documents that will “ensure the peace.”
The last of the stories will be published the day Iran tests its first atomic bomb.
Since the Iranians are making the same unserious offers they have been making for years, why are the Americans and the Europeans hailing the talks as a new beginning? Why is Ashton talking about confidence-building measures? Why are American commentators and senators talking about various steps the US could take to appease Iran? By midweek, talk was rife in Washington about the prospect of unfreezing some of the $50 billion Iranian funds that have been held in escrow in Western banks. Doing so, we were told, would reward the Iranians for being so “serious,” but it wouldn’t involve directly unraveling the sanctions regime.
All of this is happening because the American and Europeans have changed their game. The only serious development of this week is the revelation of their new game.
The Iranians remain committed to developing nuclear weapons. But the US and Europe have stopped even paying lip service to stopping them. Instead, the US and Europe aim to destroy domestic Western opposition to Iran’s nuclear program. This is the new American/European game plan. This is what stands behind all the nonsensical talk of “serious” Iranian proposals.
Before his reelection, Obama felt constrained to pretend that he was serious about preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He opposed but then grudgingly signed comprehensive sanctions passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress. He told AIPAC that he had Israel’s back.
Not only do the White House’s lies about Iran’s new “level of seriousness” give Obama the maneuver room to pretend he’s acting responsibly, they trap Israel into inaction. After all, how could Israel possibly bomb Iran’s nuclear installations when Iran is negotiating so seriously, and is “this close” to making a groundbreaking agreement?
We shouldn’t be surprised by this state of affairs. Obama has never acted in good faith with Israel.
Take the latest news on Turkey, for example.
Rather than taking action against Turkey, or simply acknowledging that the actions of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan represented a fundamental shift in Turkey’s strategic outlook, Obama shrugged off Turkey’s betrayal. The US didn’t even protest Turkey’s despicable deed. Instead, as Ignatius noted, “Turkish-American relations continued warming last year to the point that Erdogan was among Obama’s key confidants.”
A few months after Turkey colluded with Iran against Israel, Obama coerced Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into apologizing to Erdogan for Israel’s lawful maritime interdiction of the Mavi Marmara as it unlawfully sought to breach Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza coastline.
No doubt, in making this concession Netanyahu believed that he would win Obama’s goodwill. In a similar fashion, in the hope of appeasing Obama, Netanyahu has made concession after concession to the Palestinians – from drastically downgrading Jewish property rights in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to releasing Palestinian murderers from prison.
Yet in all of these cases, Obama has pocketed Israel’s concessions and demanded more concessions.
In all these cases, Obama’s allies have used the concessions to present a picture of Israel as both an ungrateful and unhelpful ally, and as a weakling. And in the meantime, Obama has facilitated EU sanctions against Israel. He has leaked top secret Israeli intelligence operations to the media. He has repeatedly threatened to abandon Israel at the UN Security Council. He has supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
And now he is involved in negotiations with Iran that will necessarily lead to Iran’s emergence as a nuclear power.
From Netanyahu’s repeated declarations that Israel will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, it is unclear whether he realizes what is going on. More than anything else, those statements represent an attempt to negotiate with Obama. Netanyahu is still trying to win Obama over.
If there was ever an argument to be made in favor of Netanyahu’s pleading, their time is long past. In nothing else, the obscene diplomatic theater in Geneva this week made that clear.
Israel is alone. We have no diplomatic option.
No matter what Israel says, no matter what it does, neither the US nor any other Western power is ever going to be convinced to take the only step that would set back Iran’s nuclear program – bombing its nuclear installations. No matter what, neither Obama nor any European leader will ever support an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear installations.
Israel’s back is to the wall. That is the meaning of the talks in Geneva. If we aren’t prepared to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, we have to stop talking and start acting. And we need to prepare for the diplomatic hell that will break loose thereafter