Things are much clearer in the vernacular than they are in diplomatic speak: The free world is pulling a fast one on us. And on itself. The agreement that the International Atomic Energy Agency reached with Iran is a pact among thieves. Thieves and liars. Everyone knows that this deal is not worth even the few words used to announce it.
At its core, the agreement is merely a goodwill gesture by the Iranians aimed at facilitating U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election in November.
Sanctions could have effectively curbed Iran's nuclear efforts, but only if they had been imposed consistently and if each successive round had been tougher than the previous one. They could have worked if Iran's central bank had been completely shut down and the passage of ships through the Strait of Hormuz had been blocked. But, as always, Iran faced an impatient, oil-hungry West that was eager to achieve something that resembles a victory ahead of the U.S. presidential elections.
IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano traveled to Tehran this week, the way King Henry IV walked to Canossa in 1077. For a long time he voiced (in written reports) lofty declarations against the Iranian nuclear program, but when he arrived in Tehran he happily accepted hints and half truths and veiled lies and announced — with his head hung low — that an agreement was on the horizon.
The cunning Iranians pulled the rug out from under the six world powers that sent representatives to Baghdad for a second round of nuclear talks, starting today (Wednesday). What is left to talk about, now that the IAEA chief himself has given the Iranians his seal of approval?
The U.S. and Europe understand that this is a trick. The U.S. rushed to declare that facts on the ground, not the agreement with Amano, would be the determining factor. But Obama is only saying that to appease the Senate and the House of Representatives, who are wise to Iran's cunning and are demanding harsher sanctions. Congress needs to be appeased, but no more than that.
The Iranians are playing games with the leaders of the world's democracies, who are seeking short-term victories and looking to put out local fires. The scope of their vision goes as far as the nearest polling booth. They don't have the time, or desire, to address the massive earthquake that could send shock waves through the entire world, but especially through the Jewish state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have repeated time and again that not only are the Iranians creating the illusion of progress in talks to ease the pressure, but there is also the dangerous possibility that the U.S., Europe and the IAEA have lowered their demands. The world is asking for less than the absolute minimum. The Iranians will agree to these meaningless demands and enjoy a lifting of sanctions in return. Everyone will be satisfied in the short term, and no one will be sounding the alarm but Israel.
The efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program are currently at an all-time low, sapped of energy. The West has stepped up the pressure over the last year, but lately, it has eased up. The main reason for this is that the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iran has diminished in the public's mind — both in Israel and abroad — thanks to remarks made by American officials and with the help of Israelis like former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former Israel Security Agency director Yuval Diskin.
Netanyahu and Barak — and hopefully ministers Moshe Ya'alon, Shaul Mofaz and Dan Meridor — can restore credibility to the Israeli military threat, and reignite a real concern among the Iranians. That is, if the world hasn't missed the boat on the military threat as well.