Friday, February 20, 2015

  • Friday, February 20, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon
David Ignatius of the Washington Post interviews Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister of intelligence, who explains in very clear language the reasons that Israel has broken so publicly with Washington:

“From the very beginning, we made it clear we had reservations about the goal of the negotiations,” he explained. “We thought the goal should be to get rid of the Iranian nuclear threat, not verify or inspect it.”

Steinitz, who helps oversee Iran strategy for Netanyahu, said he understands the United States wants to tie Iran’s hands for a decade until a new generation takes power there. But he warns: “You’re saying, okay, in 10 or 12 years Iran might be a different country.” This is “dangerous” because it ignores that Iran is “thinking like an old-fashioned superpower.”

Netanyahu’s skepticism reached a tipping point last month when he concluded that the United States had offered so many concessions to Iran that any deal reached would be bad for Israel. He broke with Obama, first in a private phone call Jan. 12, and then in his public acceptance of an offer by GOP House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress on March 3 and, in effect, lobby against the deal.

The administration argues that the pact taking shape, although imperfect, is preferable to any realistic alternative. It would limit the Iranian program and allow careful monitoring of its actions. Angered by what it sees as Netanyahu’s efforts to sabotage the agreement, the administration decided in early February to limit the information it shared with Israel about its bargaining with Iran.
...
Despite Netanyahu’s view that it was a “great mistake” to accept any Iranian enrichment, Steinitz said that “we got the impression that it might be symbolic. The initial figure [discussed by the United States and its negotiating partners] was ‘a few hundred centrifuges.’ ” Now, he said, the United States is contemplating “thousands.” According to Israeli press reports, the United States has offered to allow Iran to operate at least 6,500 centrifuges.

Steinitz didn’t dispute the U.S. argument that what matters is a package that includes the number and performance levels of the permitted centrifuges, the extent of dismantlement of non-permitted centrifuges and the size of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium. “Breakout time is an equation with four variables,” he said.

“The temptation [for Iran] is not now but in two or three or four years, when the West is preoccupied with other crises,” he added. Steinitz said that if Iran chose to “sneak out” at such a moment, it would take the United States and its allies months to determine the pact had been violated, and another six months to form a coalition for sanctions or other decisive action. By then, it might be too late.

Steinitz said the Israeli government understands the U.S. goal of a 10- to 15-year duration for the agreement, which would constrain Iran into what’s likely to be the next generation after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who is 75. But here again, he dissented.

“I understand the logic, but I disagree,” Steinitz said. What the United States is saying to Iran, in effect, is “if you agree to freeze for 10 years, that’s enough for us.” But that won’t work for Israel. “To believe that in the next decade there will be a democratic change in leadership and that Iran won’t threaten the U.S. or Israel anymore, I think this is too speculative.”

Steinitz concluded the conversation with an emphatic warning: “Iran is part of the problem and not part of the solution — unless you think Iran dominating the Middle East is the solution.”
Ignatius' takeaway from this conversation is as instructive as the entire argument Steinitz gave:
People who think that a nuclear deal with Iran is desirable, as I do, need to be able to answer Steinitz’s critique.
Ignatius cannot find a single hole in Steinitz' points against a deal as it is structured now. But his response isn't an intellectually honest one.

If Israel is right, the proper response is to scuttle the bad deal, not to find more justifications for it.

Ignatius is saying that that the deal is sacred and someone needs to come up with plausible sounding responses to defend it so that he- and by extension, all of Obama's supporters for a deal - don't feel like idiots. This shows that supporters of the deal are impervious to facts and logic; they have made an emotional decision and not an objective one.

David Ignatius is admitting explicitly that no argument, no matter how correct, can shake his belief that a nuclear deal with Iran  - one that allows Iran to build a bomb or three before the West can mount an effective response - is better than none. He is not the only one with this logical blind spot.

And that is the problem.

(h/t David G)



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