United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Realistic Options for Final Nuclear Deal

            A final nuclear deal that satisfies both Iran and the world’s six major powers will require hard compromises on five key issues, according to a brief from the Arms Control Association. “If either side pushes unrealistic requirements on the other side, the chances for a negotiated resolution will decrease and the chances of a conflict and a nuclear-armed Iran will increase,” warn Daryl Kimball and Kelsey Davenport. In the brief below, they outline realistic options to deal with five pivotal issues —uranium enrichment, the Arak heavy water reactor, increased inspections, and suspected nuclear weapons research.

Uranium Enrichment Capacity
            The extent to which Iran is willing to reduce the capacity and the scope of its uranium enrichment program is key. The agreement reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 states that the program should be "consistent with practical needs."

            In other words, Iran's enrichment capacity and stockpile of material should not exceed the fuel supply needs of its nuclear power and research reactor programs, which for now are close to zero but could grow in the coming years.

            Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with preliminary information on the selection of sites for up to 16 new nuclear power reactors and a light water research reactor. These reactors would, if built, require a reliable supply of enriched uranium fuel from abroad or through indigenous production. However, these reactors are many years away from reality. 

      The United States and its P5+1 partners will point out that Iran currently has very limited or nonexistent needs for enriched uranium fuel for energy production. Today, Iran has one research reactor (the Tehran Research Reactor) that produces medical isotopes and Iran has enough material to fuel that reactor for years to come; Iran also has a light-water power reactor (Bushehr), which uses fuel supplied by Russia under a ten year arrangement that could be renewed. 

            In the near term, the P5+1 powers will and should push for a significant reduction in Iran's overall enrichment capacity from 10,000 operating, first generation (IR-1) centrifuges at two sites to approximately half that number or less. Even with 4,000 or fewer first generation centrifuges at one site, Iran would have more than sufficient capacity for its foreseeable "practical" nuclear power reactor fuel needs.

            By rolling back Iran's enrichment capacity to such levels, limiting enrichment to reactor grade levels (up to five percent) and placing caps on Iran's enriched uranium stockpile, the time necessary to produce enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb would be extended to six months or more. Such an effort could be readily detected within days with the increased monitoring and verification measures that are likely to be imposed as part of the comprehensive deal.

            If Iran tried to "break out," it would take still longer for Iran to amass enough bomb-grade material for additional weapons, assemble a nuclear device, possibly conduct a nuclear explosive test of the warhead design, and develop a reliable means of delivering the weapons. This would give the international community ample warning and time to respond to Iran's actions. 

            Iran is also developing new and more efficient centrifuges and will likely resist any P5+1 effort to limit its ability to develop and deploy such centrifuges. Once operational, these more advanced centrifuges, such as IR2-Ms, could enrich uranium much more efficiently. 

            Consequently, the two sides will likely set limits on the overall capacity of Iran's enrichment program (as measured in "separative work units (SWU)") rather than the total number of centrifuges. This would allow Iran to continue its research and development activities under strict IAEA monitoring, which it views as a necessary part of the comprehensive deal. 

            Some P5+1 states would also like to see Iran mothball the underground Fordow uranium enrichment facility, which is less vulnerable to an airstrike, while Iran will resist such an outcome. The two sides might compromise by agreeing that Iran will effectively halt any significant enrichment at Fordow and convert it to a "research-only" facility for uses including testing and developing advanced centrifuges.

The Arak Reactor and the Plutonium Path to the Bomb
            The P5+1 states have argued that Iran should abandon the unfinished Arak 40MW heavy water reactor, but Iran has resisted such an outcome.

      Heavy water-moderated reactors are well suited to the production of plutonium suitable for nuclear weapons. Arak is some time away from completion and Iran does not have (and says it has no intention to build) a reprocessing facility that would be necessary to extract plutonium from the spent fuel. Nevertheless, the Arak reactor clearly represents a significant, long-term proliferation threat that must be addressed in the comprehensive deal. 

            One compromise that would effectively neutralize Arak's plutonium potential would be to convert Arak to a more proliferation-resistant light-water reactor, but this option would require Iran to abandon its original heavy-water technology choice and would be strongly resisted by Iran, given its indigenous development of the reactor. 

            However, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Iran's official English-language Press TV in an interview Feb. 5 that Iran may agree to other modifications of the Arak heavy-water reactor near Arak.

            "We can do some design change--in other words, make some change in the design in order to produce less plutonium in this reactor and in this way allay the worries and mitigate the concerns," Salehi said.

            Some of those options could be to reduce the reactor from 40MW to perhaps 10MW. Another option is to use uranium fuel enriched to 3.5 percent or 20 percent (instead of natural uranium fuel) in order to reduce the reactor's output of plutonium that is suitable for weapons. While fueling the reactor with enriched uranium would increase Iran's "practical needs" for enriched uranium, the plutonium produced in the spent fuel from the Arak reactor would pose less of a concern for weapons.

            An additional option would be to require that all spent fuel from the Arak reactor to be verifiably removed for disposition in a third country--possibly Russia--to prevent it from becoming a source of plutonium for nuclear weapons. Russia is already responsible for removing the spent fuel produced by the Bushehr reactor.

Tougher International Inspections
            If Iran were to pursue nuclear weapons in the future, it would most likely try to do so by means of a secret program carried out at undisclosed facilities.

      Consequently, the P5+1 will also seek to persuade Iran to allow even more extensive IAEA inspection authority to guard against a secret weapons program under the terms of the Additional Protocol to its existing comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA. These inspections allow the IAEA to access non-declared sites without prior notification, which is a strong deterrent against any clandestine nuclear weapons work. Once approved by the Iranian parliament, the duration of the Additional Protocol would be unlimited.

            The P5+1 will also seek "Additional Protocol- plus" inspection measures for an extended period of time to provide still more confidence to the international community that Iran's nuclear program is being used for entirely peaceful purposes.

Resolving Concerns About "Possible Military Dimensions"
            To resolve longstanding questions about suspected weapons-related experiments that may have been conducted in secret in past years, Iran will also need to fully cooperate with the IAEA investigation on these experiments.

            The IAEA laid out its concerns about the experiments and other concerns about the completeness of Iran's nuclear declaration in an annex to its November 2011 report to the agency's Board of Governors. Shortly after the November 2011 report, the IAEA and Iran began negotiating an approach to resolve these concerns. However, no progress was made until Iran and the IAEA agreed on a path forward to guide the agency's investigations. This breakthrough came on Nov. 11, 2013, when the IAEA and Iran agreed to a new Framework for Cooperation that committed both sides to cooperate to resolve the agency's outstanding concerns. The agreement also specified the first six steps that Iran would take over the course of the following three months. 

            While these steps provided the IAEA with necessary information and access to nuclear sites to verify Iran's nuclear activities, they did not include any of the contentious experiments with possible military dimensions. 

            The successful completion of these actions, however, is building trust and cooperation. When Iran and the IAEA agreed on the next set of steps for Tehran to take during talks on Feb. 8-9, Iran and the agency finally began to address the concerns about activities with possible military dimensions. One of the seven new steps that Iran agreed to take will require it to provide information on exploding bridge wire detonators to the IAEA. Exploding bridge wire detonators can be used to trigger nuclear weapons, but they also can be used for conventional explosives and civilian applications.

            While other experiments with possible military dimensions must be addressed and soon, progress on the bridge wire detonators issue would be an important first step toward resolving these issues. 

            In the coming months, the IAEA and the P5+1 will insist that Iran provide all the information and cooperation that will be necessary to enable the IAEA to determine with confidence that whether such activities occurred or not and whether they were intended for a weapons program or not, and that no such weapons-related work continues.

            While implementation of the Iran/IAEA framework has gone smoothly thus far, it is very likely that the investigation will continue for some time beyond the six-months to a year timeframe for the negotiation of the final phase P5+1/Iran agreement.

            In addition, it is possible that the final phase P5+1/Iran agreement will specify that Iran will not henceforth conduct certain research and development activities with nuclear-weaponization applications, such as those identified in the annex of the IAEA's November 2011 report.

Sanctions Relief
            To secure a "final phase" agreement, the P5+1 will need to phase-out the tough multilateral nuclear sanctions regime now in place, including the international oil and financial sanctions that are devastating Iran's economy. Iran will likely insist that with each of the successive steps that it undertakes as part of a comprehensive agreement, there will be commensurate actions to suspend and then lift sanctions.

            This step-for-step approach will require a new UN Security Council Resolution on Iran's nuclear program and positive, follow-up actions by the European Union states and approval by Congress of revised legislation that unwinds U.S. nuclear-related sanctions that impact other nations' dealing with Iran.

            Negotiating an agreement along these lines will be difficult and implementing it will be very challenging, but a sustainable arrangement to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran is achievable.

Myths and Misperceptions

            Some policy makers and observers will likely continue to push for outcomes that are not realistic or necessary to stop Iran short of building nuclear weapons. For instance, some critics of the current diplomatic negotiations, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [see tweet below], argue that the only "acceptable" outcome is one that requires Iran agree to the permanent suspension of all uranium enrichment and the dismantlement of the Natanz, Fordow, and Arak facilities.

            According to the U.S. intelligence community Iran has had, at least since 2007, the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it were to choose to do so. That capacity can be reduced but not entirely eliminated, even it Iran were required to dismantle its uranium enrichment machines and facilities.

            A "zero-enrichment" outcome would be ideal from a nonproliferation perspective and may have been conceivable in 2005-2006 when Iran agreed to suspend enrichment work and had less than 300 centrifuges.

             But today, demands that Iran permanently halt uranium enrichment are unrealistic and unattainable. A deal that bars Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes would be unsustainable politically inside Iran, and such an outcome is not necessary to guard against a nuclear-armed Iran.

            Others argue that allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium is counter to the U.S. policy position that does not recognize the right to enrich as part of the NPT, especially if states have engaged in illicit nuclear-weapons related research. However, Iran believes it has a right to pursue as a member of the NPT, which refers to the "inalienable right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy...."

            The two sides did not agree on the nature of Iran's nuclear energy "rights" in their Nov. 24 first phase agreement, but the P5+1 recognized that Iran already has a nuclear enrichment program and would insist on retaining some enrichment capacity. As such, as part of the broad parameters of the final deal, the parties agreed to negotiate practical limits on the scope of the enrichment program and additional safeguards on ongoing Iranian enrichment activities at its Natanz and Fordow facilities, in order to reduce Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities. 

            Another misperception is that the UN Security Council's earlier demands for Iran to "suspend" uranium enrichment require that a final phase agreement must end all Iranian enrichment activity.

            In reality, the purpose of the demand for suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran under existing U.N. Security Council resolutions is to prevent Iran from accumulating more LEU until it restores confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program--not to permanently cease all uranium enrichment activities. (See: "What the UN Security Council Resolutions Say (and Don't Say) About Iran's Nuclear Program," Dec. 4, 2013.)

            The Nov. 24 agreement effectively accomplishes that goal by capping the total amount of 3.5 percent material and it goes further by requiring Iran to neutralize its 20 percent stockpiles and to cease all enrichment to 20 percent levels while a comprehensive agreement is negotiated.

Bottom Line: A "Win-Win" Deal to Guard Against a Nuclear-Armed Iran
            To guard against a nuclear-armed Iran and avoid a future confrontation over its nuclear program, the P5+1 and Iran should promptly implement the first-phase agreement and expeditiously negotiate a long-term final-phase agreement on the basis of realistic and achievable goals that meets their core requirements and respects the bottom-line needs of the other side.

            A "win" for the P5+1 countries is a comprehensive agreement that: 1) establishes verifiable limits on Iran's program that, taken together, substantially increase the time it would take for Iran to break out of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and build nuclear weapons; 2) increases the ability to promptly detect and effectively respond to a breakout; and 3) decrease Iran's incentive to pursue nuclear weapons in the future.

            A "win" for Iran's President Hassan Rouhani would be to: 1) preserve key elements of its nuclear program (including some uranium enrichment and R & D); 2) protect Iran's "right" under the NPT to a peaceful nuclear program; and 3) remove international, nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

            If either side pushes unrealistic requirements on the other side, the chances for a negotiated resolution will decrease and the chances of a conflict and a nuclear-armed Iran will increase.

            Any resort to military force against Iran's nuclear sites would, at best, only delay Iran's nuclear program and at worst, would lead to a wider conflict and very likely prompt Iran to openly pursue nuclear weapons.

            A final phase agreement will require hard compromises on the part of both sides, but it is the far more preferable and effective way to resolve the long-running dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions.--Daryl G. Kimball and Kelsey Davenport
Click here for the full report.

Khamenei Urges Action on Environment

      On March 5, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei urged government agencies to coordinate their response to Iran’s pressing environmental challenges. “If you do not act decisively, some people will continue to take advantage of the situation [and continue polluting],” he said in an address marking Tree-Planting Day. Iran has three of the world’s five most polluted cities in terms of air pollution. And more than two-thirds of the country’s land—up to 118 million hectares—is rapidly turning into desert, Iran’s Forest, Range and Watershed Management Organization reported in mid-2013. The following is a translation of Khamenei’s speech. Click here for more information on threats to Iran’s environment.

First, I deem it necessary to express my gratitude to all those people who are active in the area of improving the environment. Second, I ask all officials and all the people to attach great significance to the issue of green areas. I ask all of them to prevent the country, the people and their lives from being deprived of this divine assistance and this very great divine blessing - which is plants, trees and the like.
The issue of the environment is very important. The issue of the haze and dust particles, which come to the country from the outside, is really a very important issue. A few days ago, the Minister of Agriculture delivered a report to me about this issue and the damage that it causes. It is necessary for all the officials of the country and all different executive organizations to cooperate with one another in a fundamental way in order to prevent this damage. This [dust] will cause great damage to the country. Recently, a report has been delivered to me about these haze particles. This report is warning and it is necessary to pay attention to it.
I ask the people to respect trees and attach great significance to the environment. The slogan, "Each Iranian Should Plant a Tree" which is common among the people is a good slogan. The people should do their best to plant more trees on such days. Both the people and officials in particular should prevent the hands, which try to destroy the environment. They should not allow our forests, grasslands and the environment in cities and suburban areas to be destroyed.
If you do not act in a powerful and decisive way, the Alborz mountain range will turn into iron and cement all the way up to the peaks. That is to say, if you do not act decisively, some people will continue to take advantage of the situation. Of course, you mentioned that you are working on this. This is very good, but this should be visibly seen in practice so that people know fundamental measures are being adopted. I hope that, by Allah's favor, you will be successful.

US General on Iran: Challenge & Opportunity

      On March 5, U.S. Central Command General Lloyd Austin III cited countering “malign Iranian influence” as one of 10 priority efforts for 2014 in his statement to the House Armed Services Committee. But he also noted the “unprecedented opportunity” for diplomatic talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers to resolve the nuclear dispute. Central Command’s area of responsibility includes 20 countries from Egypt to Afghanistan. Austin emphasized that Tehran’s growing missile, cyber warfare and counter-maritime capabilities pose “a very real and significant threat” to the interests of the United States and its partners — especially the Sunni Gulf states. The following are excerpts from his statement on Iran.

Challenge (Iran): We continue to pay close attention to Iran's actions. As a result of the understandings reached with the P5+1, Iran has taken specific and verifiable actions for the first time in nearly a decade that halted progress on its nuclear program and rolled it back in key respects, stopping the advance of the program and introducing increased transparency into Iran's nuclear activities. Despite this progress, significant concerns do remain. In addition to the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program, there is growing anxiety in the region and beyond concerning the malign activity being perpetrated by the Iranian Threat Network (ITN), which consists of Qods Force, Ministry of Intelligence and Security, regional surrogates, and proxies. We are seeing a significant increase in Iranian proxy activity in Syria, principally through Iran's support of LH and the regime. This is contributing to the humanitarian crisis and significantly altered political-societal demographic balances within and between the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. There is also widespread unease with respect to the counter- maritime, theater ballistic missile and cyber capabilities possessed by Iran. Each of these represents a very real and significant threat to U.S. and our partners' interests. Going forward, we should look to employ nuanced approaches in dealing with these distinct challenges, while providing the means necessary to enable our partners to do their part to address them, both militarily and diplomatically.
Opportunity (Iran): Progress towards a comprehensive solution that would severely restrict Iran's nuclear weapons 'breakout' capacity has the potential to moderate certain objectionable Iranian activities in non-nuclear areas (e.g., ITN, theater ballistic missile, cyber). If the P5+1 are able to achieve a long-term resolution with respect to Iran's nuclear program, that would represent a step in the right direction, and present an unprecedented opportunity for positive change.
...If the flow of foreign fighters could be curbed significantly, and the support provided to the regime by Lebanese Hezbollah (LH), Iranian Qods Forces and others was stopped or greatly reduced, it could lead to a break in the stalemate and an eventual resolution to the conflict.
Click here for the full statement.

Israeli Voices on Iran Part 1: Hawks

            On March 4, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged world powers to have Iran “fully dismantle its nuclear capabilities” in his address to the annual American Israeli Public Affairs Committee conference. Israel is the most skeptical country about diplomacy to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.  Netanyahu has long argued that Tehran must be denied the ability to ever build a nuclear weapon. “That means we must dismantle their heavy water reactor, underground enrichment facilities, get rid of stockpiles of enriched uranium and their centrifuges,” the prime minister told some 14,000 conference attendees.

            Netanyahu also called for additional pressure on Iran to ensure a peaceful resolution to the nuclear dispute. The Obama administration, in contrast, has repeatedly argued that additional pressure, such as new sanctions, could derail talks and push Washington closer to war.
            Other top Israeli officials have also taken a hardline view of Iran. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have rejected President Hassan Rouhani’s diplomatic overtures to the outside world as a deceptive charm offensive. Netanyahu and other ministers rejected the November 2013 interim agreement with Iran as an “historical mistake.”
            Israel is concerned that a final diplomatic deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers—the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia—could allow Iran to reemerge as a regional powerhouse. Jerusalem fears an agreement that could allow Tehran to improve its military capabilities, ramp up support for extremist groups and gain international legitimacy. The following are hawkish remarks by Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders on Iran.  
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
            “World leaders are talking about leaving Iran with capability to enrich. This would enable Iran to rapidly develop nuclear weapons. If we allow this outlaw terrorist state to enrich uranium, how can we seriously demand that other country not enrich uranium?
            “We must dismantle their heavy water reactor, underground enrichment facilities, get rid of stockpiles of enriched uranium and their centrifuges.
            “I've come here to draw a clear line. The line between life and death, right and wrong, between the blessings of a brilliant future and the curses of a dark past.
            “Israel is humane, Israel is compassionate, Israel is a force for good. On the other side of the moral divide stand the forces of terror, Iran, Assad, Hezbollah, al-Qaida and others.
            “Listen to [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah, he says 'Iran and Hezbollah love death and Israel loves life, that's why Iran and Hezbollah will win'. He's right about the first part, but he's dead wrong on the second point, it's because we love life that Israel shall win.
            “Iran's radical regime has tried to blur this moral divide. It wheels out its smiling president and smooth talking foreign minister, but they don't square with Iran's aggressive actions.”
            “I'm often asked whether Israel truly wants diplomacy to succeed - of course we do. No country has a greater interest in the peaceful elimination of the Iranian nuclear threat. But this will only be done with an agreement making Iran fully dismantle its nuclear capabilities… Pressure is what brought Iran to negotiating table, only more will get them to abandon [it].
            “Greater pressure won't make war more likely, but less likely. The greater the pressure on Iran and the more credible the threat of force, the stronger the chance force will never have to be used."
            March 4, 2014 at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference
            “I know it is not fashionable, but we need more pressure on Iran - not less.
            The goal of the talks with Tehran “should be zero centrifuges and zero enrichment” to prevent it from attaining “the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon.”
            Iran is developing new centrifuges “50 times better than the ones they have now” and intercontinental ballistic missiles that could “target Europe and the U.S. and… carry a nuclear payload.”
            Feb. 17, 2014 in an address to The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz
            A final deal that allows Iran to retain centrifuges for uranium enrichment ultimately would allow the development of nuclear weapons in Iran, encourage a Sunni-Shiite arms race in the Middle East and weaken counterproliferation efforts worldwide…
            The chances of Iran developing the bomb as a “threshold country” are considerable: North Korea did so after signing a similar deal in 2007. Becoming a nuclear power was the ayatollahs’ initial objective and the reason Tehran invested around $50 billion in this project. Yes, there are other countries on the nuclear threshold, but unlike Germany and Japan, Iran is unlikely to maintain its threshold status.
            The ayatollahs’ regime poses a threat to its Sunni neighbors. Tehran calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state and sponsors terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, all of which sparks fear in other countries. Sooner or later, Tehran’s anxiety over potential retaliatory actions against its regime, including its nuclear project, would increase pressures within Iran to dash toward a fait accompli nuclear weapon…
            Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s “charm offensive” has had a dramatic effect in the West, but no one in the Middle East buys Iran’s projection of pacifism. Indeed, Tehran’s direct involvement in Sunni-Shiite carnage in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq has sharpened its image. Iran’s breakout capability will be pivotal in regional assessments, with most governments likely to conclude that if the deal leaves Iran only a year or two away from the bomb Tehran ultimately will go nuclear.
            Feb. 28, 2014 in an op-ed for The Washington Post
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon
            “The impending agreement with Iran is a historical fiasco. Iran will no longer feel any pressure – political, military or economic. It will spend the next three years arguing semantics, while at the same time it will advance its nuclear capabilities and become a true nuclear threshold state. From that point on Iran will be able to fully develop nuclear weapons whenever it chooses. A nuclear Iran is the number one global threat – Iran must be stopped.
            “Let us not be confused, Iran wants regional, international hegemony. They want to obtain a nuclear umbrella for their activities and perhaps over time will use of force as well.”
            Jan. 28, 2014 at the annual Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
             “The new missile tests conducted by Iran yesterday are further proof its intentions have not changed and the Iranians are not even hiding their being a warmongering state.
             “The only change in Iran is that now they threaten world peace behind a mask of smiles.”
             Feb. 11, 2014 in remarks to the press
             “As we speak, the centrifuges continue to spin and to enrich uranium, and they intend to replace the old centrifuges with new ones that have the ability to produce five times more than the existing ones. Most of the countries that produce energy for civilian purposes from atomic power plants do not need enriched uranium…
             “American expert Bob Einhorn once said that the Iranian demand to enrich large quantities of uranium to 20% in order to produce electricity is like asking for a 30-cm-long commando knife to spread jam on bread. Not only that, but the claim that they need a stockpile of enriched uranium because they plan to build a lot of nuclear power stations in the future is as ridiculous as saying that we are building a petrol station next to our house because in 20 years we intend to buy a car.
             “Also, Iran’s involvement in terrorism, its active aid to Assad and to Hezbollah, reveals the true nature of the regime. Iran hasn’t changed in relation to human rights: Iran holds second place in the world in the absolute numbers of executions it carries out, and first place for the number of executions relative to the population. In 2013, more than 600 people were executed. Since Rouhani’s election last June, 367 people have been executed. Among these were 18-year-olds who committed the crimes when they were minors; after they were sentenced to death, Iran waited until they reached the age when they could be hanged. In short, charm notwithstanding, Iran is the same Iran.
             “So, we will follow the implementation of the Geneva agreement that was reached with the Iranians, but in the end, responsibility for the security of Israel’s citizens and the future of the state is entirely in the hands of the Israeli government. We will not hesitate to make decisions according to developments.”
             Jan. 5, 2014 in an address to Ministry of Foreign Affairs heads of mission
             The interim nuclear deal is “unacceptable to me and the Israelis… We are in the beginning of a nuclear arms race...[whose] consequences are even more serious than a horror movie in Hollywood.
             “The real center of power, it's not the new political leaders. It's not Rouhani, it's not Zarif, it's still the Revolutionary Guard and the Supreme Leader.
             “We hope for real change in Iran… We enjoyed really friendly relations with the Iranian people for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. “[Today] of course we have some dialogue with the Iranian people through mass media, but it's not enough."
             Dec. 7, 2013 at the Brookings Institution Saban Forum
             “Obviously when you look at the smiles of the Iranians over there in Geneva, you realize that this is the Iranians’ greatest victory, maybe since the Khomeini revolution, and it doesn’t really change the situation within Iran.”
             Nov. 24, 2013 to Israel Radio
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett
             “Israel does not see itself as bound by this bad, this very bad agreement that has been signed.”
             Nov. 24, 2013 to Israel Army Radio
Defense Ministry Political-Military Affairs Director Maj. Gen. (Res) Amos Gilad
            “As soon as you reach an interim agreement, it can be extended later for another six months. Then what happens? As soon as I stop the momentum [of sanctions against Iran], the consensus is cracked. It’s like a wall with cracks. The wheels of economy start spinning again.
            “Of course [negotiations are an exercise in deception]. They [Iranians] have missiles, they have military research for the project and they have resources. The men of the Revolutionary Guard are in control of all of this. They invest constantly in defensive measures. What we see here is a military project being conducted by a very dangerous regime, and that combination creates a very significant danger.”

            December 2013 in an interview with Al Monitor

Israeli Voices on Iran Part 2: Doves

            Israel does not speak with one voice on Iran. Several politicians and current and former intelligence officials have broken with the government’s largely hawkish view of Iran since President Hassan Rouhani took office in August 2013. President Shimon Peres has expressed willingness to “convert enemies into friends” and even meet Rouhani while Prime Minister Netanyahu has called Iran’s president a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

            Israel’s alternative voices on the Islamic Republic are generally more open to testing diplomacy and Tehran’s intentions before promoting the military option. Military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, has concluded that Iran is undergoing “significant” and “strategic” changes and that centrist political factions have gained strength since Rouhani’s election. Military intelligence has also contended that a complete dismantling of Tehran’s uranium enrichment equipment —one of Netanyahu’s top demands — is unrealistic.

             Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has long opposed an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. In February, he reportedly told a closed forum that Netanyahu’s preferred policy toward Iran could have led to war. Others have disagreed with the government's focus and approach to Iran. In December, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said failed peace negotiations with the Palestinians would be a "far graver" threat to Israel’s future than Iran's nuclear program. In late 2013, opposition politician Zahava Gal-on declared her support for the Obama administration's approach to diplomacy with Iran and even accused Netanyahu of trying to sabotage U.S. efforts. The following are excerpted remarks by Israeli security experts and politicians on Iran.

President Shimon Peres
      “Why not [meet President Hassan Rouhani]? I don't have enemies. It's not a matter of a person but of a policy. The purpose is to convert enemies into friends. If it was only him I'd take it with greater assurance, but there are other structures, other people. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, half army and half organization, spreads terror all over the world. And I'm not so sure they support the president. We have to see the balance of the situation.”
      “We don’t consider Iran as an enemy… There were times [when] we didn’t want to meet, for example, with [Palestinian Liberation Organization chief Yasser] Arafat. But the moment Arafat changed his policy, why not? We are for peace.”
            Dec. 8, 2013 at a business conference in Tel Aviv
            “Last night a deal was signed between the P5+1 and Iran. This is an interim deal. The success or failure of the deal will be judged by results, not by words. I would like to say to the Iranian people: You are not our enemies and we are not yours. There is a possibility to solve this issue diplomatically. It is in your hands. Reject terrorism. Stop the nuclear program. Stop the development of long-range missiles. Israel like others in the international community prefers a diplomatic solution. But I want to remind everyone of what President Obama said, and what I have personally heard from other leaders. The international community will not tolerate a nuclear Iran. And if the diplomatic path fails, the nuclear option will be prevented by other means. The alternative is far worse.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 in a statement
Institute for National Security Studies Director and former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin
            “They [Iranians] didn’t sign onto this in order to breach it… The Iranians came to Geneva to get sanctions lifted. They understand that this [interim deal] is a test. It will be illogical for them to breach it in the next six months. It might be more logical for them to try to escape it after six months.”
            “Though we don't like this agreement, it's better than the alternative of no agreement…
            “In the coming six months the legitimacy of an [Israeli] attack [on Iran] will diminish.”
            Nov. 24, 2013 to Israel’s Channel 2 and other media
Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy
            “I come away from this with a sense of possibility, by no means a certainty, that there might be an opening, in which one can turn around the thorniest problem of all: the deep-seated rejection of Israel by the current regime in Iran.
            “IF, if, the nuclear file is closed, and sanctions removed, it will bring economic relief…[and] a renewed view from Tehran of the opportunities the world is offering. And then, if there will be a desire to move beyond the nuclear issue, then the Iran regime will be able to turn to the public and say, ‘we should no longer be in the business of fear mongering. If we want to move forward with the US, it will be difficult while maintaining a state of belligerency against one of the US key friends and allies.”
            November 2013 in an interview with Al Monitor
Meretz Party leader Zahava Gal-on
            Netanyahu was “sabotaging and “undermining” Obama’s efforts to engage with Iran.
            “Netanyahu doesn’t object, as he wrote on his Facebook page, to a ‘bad agreement with Iran,’ but to any agreement that’s directly negotiated between the United States and Iran.
            “It’s in Israel’s interest to support the U.S. goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons through a diplomatic agreement that will employ stringent monitoring and verification, and not the winds of war.”
            November 2013 according to The Times of Israel
Former Shin Bet chief Carmi Gillon
            “The American policy is a policy of wisdom… In my eyes, American policy is not coming out of weakness. It comes out of power.”
            Nov. 8, 2013 in an interview with the Chicago Sun Times
Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan
            “Even if we assume that we would use the military option to deal with this, I think that achievements that we would reach would be limited. It would be a delay, not an end” to Iranian nuclear development.

            Jan. 5, 2014 at a public forum in Kfar Saba

Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin
            “The ramifications of failed negotiations [with the Palestinians] are far graver for Israel’s future than the Iranian nuclear program.”
            December 2013 in an interview with Haaretz

Photo credit: Shimon Peres by David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons



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