The agreement that France, Germany and Britain reached with Iran this week signals that the diplomatic option of dealing with Iran's nuclear weapons program no longer exists. To understand why this is the case, we must look into the agreement and understand what is motivating the various parties to accede to its conditions.
The agreement stipulates that the European-3 will provide Iran with light water reactor fuel, enhanced trade relations and more nuclear reactors. In exchange, the Iranians agree that for the duration of the negotiations toward implementing the agreement – including a European push for Iranian ascension to the World Trade Organization – it will not develop centrifuges and will not enrich uranium. At the same time, the Europeans accepted Iran's claim that it has the legal right to complete the entire nuclear fuel cycle – meaning, it has the legal right to enrich uranium.
Strangely, in a separate Iranian agreement with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, the Iranians announced that they would cease enriching uranium effective Monday, November 22, rather than immediately. This apparently annoyed the Europeans, but it wasn't a deal breaker.
The Weekly Standard this week explained that light water reactor fuel of the type that the Europeans have agreed to give Iran can be used to produce bomb material within nine weeks. Since the IAEA inspectors only visit Iran every three months, it would be a simple matter to divert enough light water fuel to produce a bomb between inspections. And so, the agreement itself holds the promise of direct European assistance to Iran's nuclear weapons program.
While the Europeans were congratulating themselves for their feckless diplomacy, the Iranians were taking to the airwaves and arguing that they gave up nothing in the deal and received everything.
Hamid Reza Asefi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said the suspension of nuclear activities would last only until Iran and the Europeans reached a long-term agreement. For his part, Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said that enriching uranium is "Iran's right, and Iran will never give up its right to enrich uranium."
Iran's interest in making the deal is clear. The IAEA governing board is set to meet next week to discuss Iran's nuclear program. By agreeing to the deal with the Europeans, Iran has effectively foreclosed the option, favored by the US, of transferring Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council for discussions that could lead to sanctions on Iran.
Aside from that, all along, Iran has been gaming the system. It has pushed to the limits all feasible interpretation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, of which it is a signatory, to enable it to reach the cusp of nuclear weapons development without breaking its ties or diminishing its leverage over the Europeans as well as the Russians and Chinese. In so doing, it has isolated the US and Israel – which have both gone on record that Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons – from the rest of the international community, which is ready to enable Iran to achieve nuclear weapons capabilities.
In the meantime, as Iran has negotiated the deal with the Europeans, it has moved quickly to develop its nuclear weapons delivery systems. Its recent Shihab-3 ballistic missiles tests seem to have demonstrated that Iran can now launch missiles to as far away as Europe. In addition, last week's launching of an Iranian drone, as well as this week's Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israel, have shown that Iran has developed a panoply of delivery options for using its nuclear (as well as chemical and biological) arsenals to physically destroy Israel.
For their part, the European powers must know that this deal is a lie. The ink had not dried on their signatures when Iran announced that it wasn't obligated by the agreement to end its uranium enrichment. As well, on Wednesday, just two days after the deal was announced formally, the Iranian opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance – the political front for the People's Mujahedeen (which the deal stipulates must be treated as a terrorist organization comparable to al-Qaida) – held press conferences in Paris and Vienna where its representatives stated that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium at a Defense Ministry facility in Teheran and that it bought blueprints for nuclear bombs three years ago from Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan's nuclear bomb store.
The Council of Resistance is the same organization that blew the whistle on Iran's nuclear program in 2002, when it exposed satellite imagery of Iran's nuclear facility in Natanz.
Aside from this, European leaders themselves have said that in their view there is no military option for taking out Iran's nuclear facilities. In an interview with the BBC this week, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "I don't see any circumstances in which military action would be justified against Iran, full stop." Straw made this statement the same week that French President Jacques Chirac made an all-out diplomatic assault against British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his alliance with US President George W. Bush.
Speaking to British reporters on Monday, Chirac said, "Britain gave its support [to the US in Iraq] but I did not see much in return. I am not sure that it is in the nature of our American friends at the moment to return favors."
Chirac added that he had told Blair that his friendship with Bush could be of use if the US adopted the EU position on Israel and the Palestinians. Since Bush has refused to do so, Chirac argued, Bush has played Blair for a fool.
From these statements, two things about the European agenda become clear. First, by bringing Britain into the talks with Iran, the French have managed to ensure that the Americans, if they decide to do something about Iran's nuclear weapons programs, will be forced to act without British backing and at the expense of the British government, thus causing a serious fissure in the Anglo-American alliance. Straw's statement is breathtaking in that it shows that on the issue of Iranian nuclear weapons, the British prefer to see Iran gain nuclear weapons to having anyone act to prevent them from doing so.
Chirac's statement exposes, once again, France's main interest in international affairs today. To wit: France wishes only to box in the US to the point that the Americans will not be able to continue to fight the war against terrorism. The French do this not because they necessarily like terrorists. They do this because as Chirac has said many times, he views the central challenge of our time as developing a "multipolar" world. France's obsession with multipolarity stems from Chirac's perception that his country's primary aim is not to free the world from Islamic terror, but to weaken the US.
Given this state of affairs, it is clear that the newest deal with the mullahs has removed diplomacy from the box of tools that can be used against Iran. In the unlikely event that the issue is ever turned over to the Security Council, France will veto sanctions even if Russia and China could be bought off to abstain. As the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal has shown, even if sanctions were to be levied, there is no credible way to enforce them.
So where does this leave the Jews who, in the event that Iran goes nuclear, will face the threat of annihilation? Crunch time has arrived.
It is time for Israel's leaders to go to Washington and ask the Americans point blank if they plan to defend Europe as Europe defends Iran's ability to attain the wherewithal to destroy the Jewish state. It must be made very clear to the White House that the hour of diplomacy faded away with the European Trio
's latest ridiculous agreement with the mullahs. There is no UN option. Europe has cast its lot with the enemy of civilization itself.
The prevailing wisdom in Washington these days seems to be that the US is waiting for an Israeli attack on Iran. There is some logic to such a policy. No doubt, the Arabs and the Iranians will all blame America anyway, but they are not America's chief concern here. Britain and Germany are.
What the US needs is plausible deniability regarding an Israeli strike vis-a -vis Britain and Germany, in order to get itself out of the trap that Paris has set for it. An Israeli strike against the Iranian nuclear program will leave Germany in an uncomfortable public position. Berlin cannot condemn the Jews for doing what we can to prevent another Holocaust without losing whatever crumbs of moral credibility it has built up over the past 50 years.
As for Britain, if Israel were to conduct the attack on its own, the British would be hard-pressed to abandon the Americans; thus, the danger that British involvement with the Paris-based multipolarists on Iran will breach the Anglo-American alliance could be somewhat mitigated.
On the other hand, if the Bush administration does not accept Israeli reasoning, the fact will still remain: Israel cannot accept a nuclear Iran.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.