Rajan Menon writes: The much-anticipated breakthrough in the negotiations aimed at preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons has yet to materialize. But Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who believes that a wily Iran is outwitting its gullible interlocutors, isn’t breathing any easier; instead, he’s breathing fire. The statements from those involved in the talks (Iran and the P5+1) indicating that the obstacles to an interim accord are being overcome have incensed Netanyahu. And he has made his displeasure known — publicly and without pulling punches — even though the first-step agreement with Iran couldn’t be reached in the end.
As the upbeat reports streamed in last week, Netanyahu declared that a compromise with Iran would be a betrayal of Israel as well as a strategic blunder that would eventually bring grief to other states as well. He continues to insist that Israel will neither be bound by any deal, short of one that ensures denuclearization, that the P5+1 reaches with Iran nor rule out any response (read: a military strike) it deems necessary to defend its interests.
What are those Israeli interests? While Iranian leadership remains adamant about retaining an independent nuclear fuel cycle, which it regards as its right under the terms of the NPT, Israel has made it just as plain that Iran’s acquisition of that capability is unacceptable — period. That’s because the Israeli leadership is convinced that any accord that permits Iran to enrich uranium to a level needed for generating electricity, even under strict verification, enables it to gain, and pretty quickly, the capacity to dash across the nuclear threshold when it wishes to do so.
While this perspective explains Netanyahu’s scorn for the negotiations, he risks becoming isolated should the dealmakers eventually start viewing him as an obstreperous maximalist who is heedless of the risk of war. Moreover, he doesn’t have sure-fire options for dismantling Iran nuclear complex, which consists of many facilities, widely dispersed and well protected. [Continue reading…]