Iran framework will make war more likely
By Moshe Ya'alon
Ya’alon is Israel’s defense minister.
concluded last week on Iran’s nuclear program was doomed to
disagreement. Even the “fact sheets” issued by the United
States, France and Iran — all parties to the talks — didn’t
agree on the facts.
Israel has made clear its
grave concerns about the framework’s fundamental elements and omissions. The
vast nuclear infrastructure to be left in Iran will give it an unacceptably
short breakout time to building a bomb. Iran’s
long-range ballistic missile program — a threat to Israel as well
as the rest of the Middle East, Europe and the United States — is untouched.
The sanctions on Iran will be lifted (quickly, according to the Iranians;
gradually, according to the United States), while restrictions imposed on the
Islamic republic’s nuclear program will expire in about a decade, regardless
of Iran’s campaign of murderous aggression in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and
elsewhere across the Middle East; its arming, funding, training and dispatching
of terrorists around the world; and its threats and violent efforts to destroy
Israel, the region’s only democracy.
To justify the risks inherent
to the framework, its supporters have posited three main arguments: that the
only alternative is war; that Iranian violations will be deterred or detected
because of “unprecedented
verification”; and that, in the event of violations, sanctions will
be snapped back into place. These arguments have one important feature in
common: They’re all wrong.
The claim that the only
alternative to the framework is war is false. It both obscures the failure to
attain better terms from Iran and stifles honest and open debate by suggesting
that if you don’t agree, you must be a warmonger. It also feeds and reflects
the calumny that Israel in particular is agitating for war.
As Israel’s minister of
defense, as a former Israel Defense Forces chief of general staff and as a
combat veteran forced to bury some of my closest friends, I know too well the
costs of war. I also know that Israelis are likely to pay the highest price if
force is used — by anyone — against Iran’s nuclear program. No country,
therefore, has a greater interest in seeing the Iranian nuclear question
resolved peacefully than Israel. Our opposition to a deal based on the framework
is not because we seek war, but because the terms of the framework — which
will leave an unreformed Iran stronger, richer and with a clear path to a bomb
— make war more likely.
The framework is supposed to
prevent or detect Iranian denials and deception about their nuclear program by
means of inspections and intelligence. Unfortunately, the track record of
inspections and intelligence makes the framework’s outsize reliance on them
both misguided and dangerous.
In many ways, the Iranian
nuclear crisis began and intensified after two massive intelligence failures.
Neither Israeli nor other leading Western intelligence agencies knew about
Iran’s underground enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow until it was too
late. As good as our intelligence services are, they simply cannot guarantee
that they will detect Iranian violations at all, let alone in time to stop a
dash for a bomb.
Twenty years ago, inspectors
were supposed to keep the world safe from a North Korean nuclear bomb. Today,
North Korea is a nuclear weapons state, and Iran isn’t complying with its
existing obligations to come clean about its suspected efforts to design nuclear
warheads. There is no reason to believe that Iran will start cooperating
tomorrow, but the deal all but guarantees that it will nonetheless have the
nuclear infrastructure it would need to produce a nuclear arsenal. Intelligence
and inspections are simply no substitute for dismantling the parts of Iran’s
program that can be used to produce atomic bombs.
Finally, there are the
sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. These
took years to put in place and even longer to become effective. Once lifted,
they cannot be snapped back after future Iranian violations. It is fantasy to
think the sanctions can be restored and become effective in the exceedingly
short breakout time provided by the terms of the framework.
Though we have a serious
policy disagreement with the United States regarding the framework and its
implications, I am nevertheless confident that the friendship and alliance we
share will not only weather this difference of views but also emerge even
stronger from it. This is precisely what has happened in the past. Israelis know
that the United States is Israel’s greatest friend and strategic ally. No
disagreement, not even about this critical issue, can diminish our enduring,
profound gratitude to the president and his administration, Congress and the
American people for all the United States has done to enhance the security of
the Jewish state.
The choice is not between this
bad deal and war. The alternative is a better deal that significantly rolls back
Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and links the lifting of restrictions on its
nuclear program to an end of Iran’s aggression in the region, its terrorism
across the globe and its threats to annihilate Israel. This alternative requires
neither war nor putting our faith in tools that have already failed us.