YOSSI MELMAN/Analysis: Emerging Iran deal is not a ‘sword at Israel’s throat’

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Analysis: Emerging Iran deal is not a ‘sword at Israel’s throat’
By YOSSI MELMAN/J.Post/03/30/2015

As a mere coincidence, while reports were emerging on Sunday in Lausanne, Switzerland, about the developing agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, Israel’s military reporters were granted a tour of the Israel’s naval base in Haifa, to view its newest submarine.

This is the fifth submarine that Israel has acquired at a significantly subsidized price from the Germans. Their generosity stems from pangs of guilt following the Holocaust. Each submarine costs more than half a billion dollars – Israel is expecting its sixth submarine to arrive this summer. Israel sees this submarine fleet – what it calls Fleet 7 – as a “strategic arm” of its military force.

Foreign experts and reports explain that Israel, according to their assessments, has eighty nuclear bombs and warheads, and with the submarines can carry a “second strike” nuclear capability. This means, that on “Doomsday” if Israel were ever to be bombed in a nuclear attack (if and when Iran achieves that capability, and if Tehran were to carry out such an offensive) and Israel’s stock of nuclear weapons stored underground were to be destroyed, Israel would still be able to respond with a “second strike,” firing missiles from its underwater fleet, nearly indiscernible to enemy eyes.

Armed with these six submarines, Israel’s strategic arm – along with the air force, and pending approval from the political echelon – could attack Iran to prevent it from reaching its storage of nuclear weapons. This is what former Mossad chief Meir Dagan meant when he spoke about a military attack as the last resort – “only when the sword is at the throat.”

The deal currently being consolidated in Switzerland – which may not even come into fruition by the deadline – between the five world powers and Germany (P5+1) and Iran, even if not ideal, certainly does not belong in the category of “sword at the throat.”

The Israeli government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defines the pending agreement as a “bad deal.” It’s true – maybe it would have been possible to reach an immeasurably better agreement. Iran has come to these talks, which are aimed at limiting its nuclear program, out of weakness. The heavy sanctions imposed on it over the last years – particularly on its oil exports and banking system – are threatening to crush its economy, and Iran’s leaders are concerned about the future of their regime.

But even with the concessions given by the P5+1, it is Iran which is forced to capitulate most. The centrifuges will not be dismantled, but their numbers will be reduced by 40 percent, to at most 6,000 – leaving Iran with only older, slower and less efficient models. Most of its stock of enriched uranium – some eight tons, those too at a level of only up to five percent – will be transferred to Russia. The nuclear reactor it is building in Arak will not be able to produce enough plutonium to create an atomic weapon. International inspection will be intrusive, and will continue as such for at least 10 more years. The sanctions will be lifted only gradually.

Each of these steps will distance Iran from being able to create nuclear weapons by at least a year. At the moment, it is only a few months away from such a capability.

It’s true that the agreement leaves some loopholes that are worrisome and that beg for a solution, such as requiring that Iran reveal its past “weaponization” activities (the final stage of assembling a bomb), and how to prevent it from research and development of advanced models of centrifuges.

The question here is not just if this is a bad agreement – but rather, what is the alternative? A military option? Iran could have already begun galloping toward a bomb years ago – but it didn’t, for various reasons. One, is its fear of an Israeli preventative strike.

As we just saw on the submarine tour, Israel is the strongest military and economic power in the Middle East. Its strategic posture amid the dissolution of the governments in the Arab world has only improved in the last years. There is no existential threat to the Jewish state. Not even from Iran.

Israel can permit itself to show more self confidence than its prime minister, who imbues his citizens with horror. In any case, Israel always reserves the right to use military action if ever it should feel “the sword at the throat.”