OK, a bad deal. Let’s say that it is in fact a bad deal that leaves Iran within a six months (according to Israel) to a year (according to the U.S.) of a breakout to a nuclear bomb, gradually returns Iran over a period of several years to the community of nations, removes most sanctions, and allows Iran to continue as a source of terror and violence in the world. I don’t have one positive word to say about that scenario, but it seems to me that the one-dimensional perspective to which we are exposed in Israel misses one small question—what is the alternative to an agreement?
An Israeli attack would not achieve better results. That is not a matter of dispute. Ask those who supported it, and ask those who opposed it. The conception was based on the hope that an Israeli attack would drag America into a war against Iran. It was clear to everyone that an Israeli attack alone would not achieve results worthy of such a risk. It wouldn’t have created the delay that the agreement in Lausanne was supposed to—but would have a much greater potential costs, largely that of hundreds and thousands of Hezbollah rockets would rain down on Israel and alter reality as we know it.
Netanyahu, as the expert on America, was certainly convinced that Obama would not be able to stand on the sidelines as Hezbollah, under Iranian direction, rained down rockets on Israel in response to an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear reactors. Perhaps he was correct. Perhaps he wasn’t. What is certain is that he was unable to convince himself of this because he did not attack.
The best alternative, of course, would have been an American attack on Iran. The U.S. has the capability to yield much better results, possibly even a regime change, but what can you do when it is simply not in the cards? The U.S. was not willing to contemplate a strike or go beyond empty words. Obama reached his position on the basis of his opposition to the war in Iraq. Even before he was elected as a U.S. Senator, he spoke against the war in Iraq. President Obama would not execute a strike against Iran, certainly not after all the U.S. had spent in blood and gold in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The other alternative is continuing with the status quo: sanctions, international isolation, and a shadow war. It is apparent that this scenario will not prevent Iran from going nuclear. In practice, while this strategy was being implemented Iran was able to reach 20,000 centrifuges (the agreement would leave Iran with just 6,000), some of which are state of the art and could bring Iran to its first nuclear bomb in a matter of months. In other words, Iran is less than a year away from a bomb—much closer in the last two years than it would be after an agreement. If Iran wanted to breakout and build its first nuclear weapon it could have already done so, but apparently the mullahs did their calculations vis-à-vis the international community and knew to avoid that. Perhaps that is an indication that they will not rush to break the nuclear deal and build a bomb, especially when the international community is signed off on it.
OK, so it is a bad deal. The Iranians are tricksters—that isn’t sarcasm, they have certainly earned our suspicions. They are behind the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah, Hamas, and all that is wrong with the Middle East. That is true. But what about the possibility that Iran would take advantage of this agreement to go back on some of its current policies? Let’s try and recall that we laughed off Rouhani and Zarif and claimed that they would break the interim agreement (and according to all indicators they have not); we were certain that the regime would collapse under sanctions (and it did not); perhaps this agreement would provide some fuel to the moderates in the Iranian regime and will allow them to gain some more power at the expense of the mullahs and other radicals. It is forbidden, of course, in Israel to present a future that is any less dark than the worst case scenario, but maybe, just maybe, this bad deal is the lesser evil?
Translated by Ari Heistein