See you in six months, Rouhani

Israel may look isolated over the nuclear deal with Iran, but the cards could yet fall its way.

By now, just about every commentator, academic, pundit, journalist and politician has had his or her say about the "breakthrough agreement" or alternatively, "historic mistake" or "potential cataclysmic disaster", depending on the point of view.

It cannot be all of those things simultaneously. True, it is better than the previous draft torpedoed by the French, but is it good enough? True, it temporarily slows down the process of enriching uranium--but does not reverse it. True, it halts progress on the plutonium facility being built in Tarik--but it doesn't require its dismantlement. True, it provides for daily inspections by the IAEA and sets up (yet another) international commission to supervise the IAEA process--but it doesn't permit unannounced inspections.

In any case, all of the above is only significant if Iran faithfully does what it has promised to do. On the other hand, even if it does, it will have six months to await the collapse of the crippling sanctions (according to the critics) and be able to provide oxygen to its suffocating economy through immediate relief provided by US$7 billion of revisions to the sanctions regime, which will take place before the Iranians have down anything at all.

Or, of course, the immediate relief is simply a teaser, which will help to convince Tehran that it is essential to regime survival to observe the terms and conditions of the deal to the letter.

At any rate, the Munich--sorry--Geneva accord has been endorsed by one and all, even including tepid endorsements by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE (but with a sour statement from Kuwait), with two significant exceptions (Canadians will consider their government's denunciation of the deal as significant also): the US Congress and Israel.

Leaders of both houses of Congress and of both parties have declared that they do not consider themselves bound by the deal, and that shortly after the Thanksgiving recess they will pass legislation actually strengthening the sanctions. Of course, President Obama has said he will veto any such bill put on his desk, and it is questionable whether the sponsors will be able to muster the two-thirds majorities required to override such a veto. Still, such a vote would be a serious setback for Obama and an equally serious warning to the Iranians.

In Israel, all significant political forces, with the exception of the new leadership of the Labor Party, and the great majority of the commentators have condemned the deal. But wait--maybe it's not such a bad thing after all--let's think a bit out of the box, as they say.... if six months go by and no overall final agreement is reached, and if (a big if) in the meantime the remaining sanctions hold, then all options are again on the table and instead of Israel being isolated, Iran would be. Hmmm. .

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 26, 2013

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

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