Israel should not jump to conclusions on Iranian nuclear deal: analyst

08:33, May 18, 2010      

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Israeli officialdom was keeping mum on Monday after news filtered through of the nuclear fuel deal between Iran, Turkey and Brazil.

The key point of the agreement is that the Iranians have agreed to ship low enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for 20-percent uranium in a nuclear fuel swap.

The deal seemingly came as something of a surprise to the Israeli government and certainly to regional experts based in the Jewish state. Indeed, many of the oftentimes more verbose pundits declined to comment, saying they first had to study the document.

The advice from Israeli analysts is that Israel should continue to keep quiet until it has fully digested all the details of the agreement and understood what they mean for regional stability.

Meanwhile, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday said his country will continue enriching uranium to 20 percent, despite the deal.


For the time being, the agreement and its ramifications are much in the realm of speculation and guesswork, with the ink yet to dry. That is why Israel should take its time to fully understand the contents of the deal, said Ephraim Asculai, an expert on Iran's nuclear program at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing for sanctions to be imposed on Iran as soon as possible by the United Nations Security Council. As in Washington and other major Western capitals, Israel believes Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program. It is a charge strongly denied by Tehran, which says its nuclear activities are solely for peaceful purposes.

The initial global media reaction to Monday's deal with Iran was that it pushes back any talk of sanctions.

Once analysts have chewed over the wording of the agreement, they will try to establish whether it increases or decreases the likelihood of a unilateral Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations.

If the deal is watertight and serves to defuse regional and international tension, then Israel may well breathe a little more easily in the wake of its signing. On the other hand, if it transpires that it was merely an excuse to delay any vote on sanctions then that could possibly up the ante as far as the Israelis are concerned.

This is a deal that Israel will be able to trust because it will be supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to Meir Javedanfar, who heads the regional analysis company Middle East Economic and Political Analysis.

"This decreases the chances of an Israel attack against Iran," he told Xinhua on Monday, though he added that the Israelis would initially be skeptical about the deal.

"If Israel sees they're getting enriched uranium out of the country, it'll have no reason to attack," said Javedanfar.

Veteran Israeli analyst Pinhas Inbari sees the issue somewhat differently. He contends that Israel will view any delay in the sanctions process as bad news, on the other hand he contends that Israel will not attack Iran unless "its back is against the wall, because it fully understands the knock-on effects of any strike."


By Monday afternoon, the first comments on the issue were made by world leaders. The European Union's President Herman Van Rompuy, for instance, asked the Iranians for reassurances regarding the nature of Iran's nuclear program.

All the while though, Israel is refusing to comment. No official in Jerusalem is prepared to go on the record regarding the latest development in Tehran. However, Xinhua has learned that there is marked skepticism in the corridors of power in Israel.

In the past, the Iranians have made promises in order to avoid the wrath of the international community only to renege on them a short time later, is the view in Israel. Diplomats fear the latest agreement is merely another example of this type of behavior.

It is an exercise aimed at buying Tehran more time, is the feeling in Israel on Monday. Israeli diplomats hope the entire international community will be united in its approach to stop this type of behavior.


One element in this story that is viewed with considerable interest by Inbari is the diplomatic game at play between countries in the developing world and the United States.

In recent years, Iran has been trying to draw closer to Latin American nations and other parts of the developing world, with Brazil being a particular favorite, seen as one of the world's key power houses outside of the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council. Indeed, Brasilia is fighting hard to be given an additional permanent seat on the UN's most important security body.

That, according to Inbari, at least in part, drove Brazil to cut a deal with Iran where the UN had so far failed.

Not wanting to be left out, the Turks, who see themselves as a leading force in the Middle East and Europe, sent their prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the last minute to be present at the tripartite meeting and signing ceremony.

Inbari argues that Brazil and Turkey are trying to step into the vacuum left by the West. "There's no leadership in the West right now," he said, arguing that U.S. President Barack Obama is likely pleased that someone else has taken the initiative.

"The Unites States is volunteering not to be the leading superpower. Obama says he doesn't want the Americans to dictate to the entire world," said Inbari.

"This will definitely elevate Brazil's standing in the international community as an influential player," said Javedanfar.



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