As the dust starts to settle after the Lausanne understanding between Iran and the P5+1, we can examine more clearly the possible outcomes of this framework agreement. What is clear is that these understandings allow Iran to maintain substantial nuclear capabilities while lifting existing sanctions. Many have described the agreement, even here in India, as “a great diplomatic achievement” that will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. They overlook the basics of the agreement, mainly that these will, in fact, enable Iran to continue its quest for military nuclear capabilities and will lead to a bad and dangerous deal that is more likely to pave Iran’s path to the bomb.
Among what are being described as “achievements”, we should note that no Iranian nuclear facility will be shut, Iran will still retain over 6,000 centrifuges, and any materials or centrifuges removed would not be destroyed but rather be available for rapid installation by Iran in case of a breach of the agreement. The framework agreement is vague on the issue of “possible military dimensions of the programme” (PMD) and has no mention of the issues of weaponisation and development of ballistic missile capabilities — two key aspects, needed only for the creation of nuclear weapons.
This deal does not allow freedom of inspection, including free access for inspectors. Rather, inspection is limited to the nuclear facilities currently known. Experience has shown that Iran tends to conceal its nuclear facilities from the international community, as was the case with the site in Fordow. Yet, the framework agreement allows Iran to continue to operate this heavily fortified, underground and formerly covert facility.
We should also note that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei rejected, only a few days ago, the US position of the gradual removal of sanctions and demanded complete and immediate removal upon signing the agreement — that is, before Iran takes any action.
In other words, this deal is no less than a prize to a regime that has consistently ignored UN Security Council resolutions for years, has practically fooled the international community time after time and been frequently criticised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the use and development of its nuclear facilities.
It is said that these negotiations were not meant to deal with Iran’s rogue activities and involvement in regional affairs through the promotion of terrorism and instability. Ask most Arab countries and they will tell you these issues cannot be ignored when dealing with a rogue regime that has aspirations to acquire nuclear military capabilities and at the same time, from Israel’s perspective, denying the Holocaust of the Jewish people and calling for the destruction of Israel, a UN member state. Even as they were sitting at the negotiation table in Lausanne, the commander of the Basij paramilitary force, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, said that for Iran, the destruction of Israel is “non-negotiable”. Should the international community ignore such statements?
Let me be very clear: Israel has no quarrel and no dispute with the Iranian people. On the contrary, we have the utmost respect for their ancient history and culture that, at many junctures of history, were woven into our own history and culture. But we cannot ignore such dangerous aspirations and intentions.
This regime continues to export its revolutionary zeal by supporting terrorism and radical organisations, providing direct financial and military assistance to radical Shiite militias and closely working with Bashar al-Assad in Syria, as well as being involved in campaigns of murderous aggression in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Iran has been involved in international terror against Israelis in Georgia, Thailand, Uruguay and even in New Delhi. I personally experienced the Iranian terror while serving at our embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1992.
What would lifting the sanctions mean to the region and the world? More money flowing into the pockets of Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards, who can more easily sponsor overseas terror operations in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and other places. This will result in greater regional instability in West Asia, fulfilling Iran’s goal of increasing its influence in the region.
It is too simplistic to say that the only alternative to the Lausanne understanding is war. The international community needs to create viable and credible alternatives before June 30, the deadline for the final deal. Intelligence and inspections are unfortunately never perfect. Fordow and Natanz are just two examples of the inherent limitations of inspections by the IAEA and of intelligence services.
There is simply no substitute for rolling back the parts of Iran’s programme that can be used to produce nuclear weapons. The best alternative is a better deal that really blocks Iran’s way to military nuclear capabilities. Such a deal will have to significantly dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, demand a cessation of Iranian aggression and terror operations across the globe, and stop Iranian threats to annihilate Israel.
The writer is the Israeli ambassador to India