Fog over Iran

The significance of recent developments, with the US upsetting key allies, is currently far from clear.

A curious confluence of events has taken place over the past few days, and its final significance is far from certain at this point:

First, rumors swirled about that the Saudis were triggering their long-reported deal with Pakistan to supply nuclear weapons whenever the kingdom might decide it needed them, in recompense for the financial assistance received from Saudi Arabia which enabled Pakistan to develop its nuclear capability in the first place. This was presumably because the Saudis were furious at the US for (1) pulling back from attacking Syria's chemical weapons infrastructure despite the fact that the GCC countries had offered to pay for the entire operation. and (2) preparing to sign an unacceptable deal with Iran, which would leave them, the other Gulf emirates (and Israel) exposed to a nuclear Iran just as the sanctions were beginning to bite significantly.

Then Secretary of State Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu had a very unpleasant and confrontational meeting, just before Kerry flew off to Geneva to join the other G5+1 countries in negotiating with the Iranians. Subsequently Netanyahu declared as he understood it the deal being proposed by the US was completely unacceptable to Israel.

Then, after the negotiations were unexpectedly extended, the French foreign minister stated that France was unwilling to accept the deal that he characterized as a "sucker deal". So the meeting adjourned with no agreement, much to the chagrin of the Iranians and the Obama Administration. French motivation? They are also furious at the US Syrian stand-down which left them high and dry as the only US ally which was willing to participate in the attack.

What now? Apparently a lower-level meeting will take place in ten days. It is not clear what that might achieve unless there is a substantial improvement in the deal from the standpoint of the West. Otherwise, it is quite possible that the Obama government will seek to sign a separate deal with Iran. if it does so, the outcry in Congress, including many democrats, would be deafening. But it is possible because Obama is obsessed with earning the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 2009 before he did anything at all.

If the US pulls back on sanctions, the entire structure will quickly crumble, giving the Iranian economy exactly the oxygen that it desperately needs to continue its nuclear weapons development capability unimpeded.

Back to the original Saudi rumor.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 12, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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