Very early on in learning Hebrew, I learnt the Hebrew “F-word”. It is a very important word that encompasses everything that an Israeli doesn’t want to be. The word, “frayer” (sucker), unlocked the door to understanding the Israeli mindset.
The frayer is easily led and easily deceived, doing things (and often, knowingly) against his own interests. In avoiding the shame of being a frayer, the Israeli is often misconceived as simply paranoid. One can often see this misconception in scathing editorials by European newspapers who denounce Israeli fears of an Iranian nuclear program as “alarmist” or “crazy”. This portrayal of the ‘paranoid Israeli’ was rife after Israeli Number One, Prime Minister Netanyahu, drew his infamous ‘Bibi Bombs’ at the UN General Assembly last year which showed his (literal) “red line” on a cartoon bomb. The New York Times (inevitably) wrote a spectacular rant about how “hysterical” he is for rejecting the Iran deal. Little do they know that all he is trying to do was show the world that Israel would not be a sucker.
Israel is not acting in an alarmist or hysterical way. The threat from Iran is present and real, and while Israeli allies in Britain and the US at the P5+1 talks in Geneva claim to know this, their almost-unanimous concensus on recent talks with Iran regarding their nuclear program which would retain Iranian enrichment capacity shows something else. Below are three reasons that I personally feel that the rapprochement with Iran is delusional and that a full dismantlement of the Iranian Nuclear Program is needed.
1. Iran wants 20% for “research” even though they have 20 years of enriched uranium stockpiled.
In an “act of defiance” against the West and despite announcing that nuclear reactors have stopped enriching uranium above 5% (which is the bottom line for use in a reactor), the Iranian Foreign Minister, Muhammed Zarif announced (in Persian) that enrichment at 20% is still happening. Their line on this is the classic “research requirement” excuse. However, why does Iran need more enrichment at this level? It is well known that Iran has enough uranium enriched at this level to fuel a nuclear reactor for 20 years. One does not need a Physics PhD to know that that’s a hell of a lot of uranium. To quote Martin Fitzpatrick, director of non-proliferation and disarmament at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in a recent interview with an Arab news outlet- “I don’t understand why Iran is producing 20% enrichment to begin with. They say it’s for fuel for Tehran’s research reactor, but the amount of 20% enriched products they’ve already stockpiled would be enough to fuel the reactor for 20 years, so there is no civilian purpose for it at all. By continuing to produce 20% enriched uranium Iran underscores suspicions that there is a military purpose for this kind of enrichment.”
The “end of Iranian enrichment at a high level” in October was seen as a sign of progress and was definitely announced by Iranian media. Then, on October 31st, the Foreign Minister popped the balloon and backtracked on the announcement.
Why this makes talks delusional: Not only does this show that Iran can lie very blatantly (a change from the normal ‘subtle’ approach), it is also an ‘act of defiance’. Acts of defiance are handy in Iran for maintaining a level of popularity amongst the conservatives and hardliners and as such, seem to be regularly necessary. They come in the form of not adhering to the conditions of agreements, doing everything that the ‘Great Satan’ does NOT want you to do. Moreover, this also shows the propensity of the Iranian regime for backtracking on annnouncements. There is no honest broker to deal with at the talks.
Why this is a reason for dismantlement: The interview with Mr. Fitzpatrick proves a point- Iran is not trying to dispel suspicions for the simple reason that it cannot. In the same way that it has refused entry to inspectors for so long and refused to acknowledge the presence of a nuclear reactor at a military base in Qom, this continued enrichment does suggest a military angle and there is no way to dispel it. This untrustworthiness paired with deception is a very strong reason not to trust Iran with any ability to acquire a nuclear bomb. Allowing them the ability to enrich uranium under conditions is not a way to ensure that the conditions are broken. The stakes are too high to allow Iran to become a ‘breakout nuclear state’. With that, who’s to say that breaking conditions isn’t another way to “act defiantly”?
2. Recent US Embassy Protests were advocated by the State
Last Monday was the 34th anniversary of the storming of the US Embassy in Tehran. Optimistic analysis was disproved and the ‘thaw’ between the Iranian Regime and Washington obviously didn’t mean anything to the tens of thousands of people in the streets of Tehran, and millions across the country, who turned out to celebrate the takeover of the Embassy and burn American flags. Neither did it mean anything to the state media of Iran, that provided extensive coverage and support of the protests across the country in which effigies of US President Obama and John Kerry were burned.
The protests were the largest or years and the day just got a catchy new name given directly from the Iranian Government- “the National Day against Global Arrogance”. The day was not prevented by the smiling Rouhani, rather choreographed by his ministers.
Why this makes talks delusional: If anybody had any doubts about how valuable the tool of ‘death to America’ is to Iranian politicians, this settles it. The fact that Rouhani smiles like a cheshire cat on CNN means nothing if there is incitement on a daily basis in the Iranian media (which they run an English version of, that I discussed here) Rallying people around a common enemy is the strongest way to bring a country together and Iran will continue to use America as one. The fact that the Iranian media further incites protests against Iran’s “new best friend” casts a fair bit of doubt on “friendship”. The hardliners who run these protests are in institutions like the Revolutionary Guards, the Ministry of the Interior, the National Security Council and other incredibly powerful institutions require the use of anti-Americanism and anti-American antagonism as a means of acquiring legitimacy. Considering they run the country and they are the muscle propping the regime up, they won’t let that tool slip.
Why this is a reason for dismantlement: If they can incite mass protests based on anti-Americanism whilst shaking hands with John Kerry at the P5+1, can they really be trusted with any capacity to ‘break out’ as a nuclear state? (Common sense)
3. Refusal of Access to IAEA inspectors
The IAEA, for a long time, has said that it’s priority is a visit to the Parchin Military Base near Tehran. This base is allegedly the site of a special steel chamber where special explosives have been tested that would be used in nuclear warheads, with substitutes such as tungsten used instead of uranium. Iran refutes the allegations but, despite having “nothing to hide”, Iran refuses entry. Perhaps this is because the IAEA has equipment capable of detecting nuclear materials over 10,000 times smaller than a grain of sand. In other words, if Iran ever tried bringing uranium onto the installation, there’s no chance of Iranian authorities brushing nuclear weapons research under the carpet.
The question is, why is Iran refusing access to this base and refusing access to other such bases where evidence could not be removed? …
Why this makes talks delusional: Why are the talks, assumedly aimed at preventing an Iranian nuclear deal, not covering the visitation of IAEA inspectors to the sites which will probably prove some form of Iranian nuclear experimentation/research? Do we not want to offend Persian sensitivities and embarass them? And if they refuse to budge, they should continue to lose money from sanctions. Even Russia and China, classic allies of Iran, voted in favour of the Parchin base being visited. If the talks don’t demand a serious investigation of Iran’s nuclear research, how can it be prevented or . With sanctions, the West is in a position to squeeze Iran into an IAEA investigation andd with that we are in a position to finally prove or disprove whether or not Iran has ever tried to be a nuclear state. The fact that Iran won’t provide that assurance to the world suggests incapability rather than an “act of defiance”.
Why this is a reason for dismantlement: If they won’t allow IAEA inspectors to prove (or disprove 😉 ) any nuclear research at these sites, why would the international community trust Iran not to build a nuclear reactor? If their best excuse is that the “IAEA is overextending their authority”, is that really enough of an explanation to exonerate those bases of investigation? The decision shows that they have something to hide, and if they don’t, they have done in the past and they cannot sweep the remnants under the carpet. In both cases, nobody should leave Iran able to fulfil any nuclear ambitions be they past or present.
Today, Iran has everything a nuclear program should have. It has a grand total of about 19,000 centrifuges spinning for uranium enrichment, enough enriched uranium for 6 nuclear weapons, around 1000 ballistic missiles as well as ICBM research with North Korea. There is no reason not to be suspicious. And when Iran has a propaganda war running against Israel and shouts of “Death to Israel”, any chance of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is a very good reason for Israel to be suspicious.
Perhaps this concept of “not being a sucker” is a direct consequence of being a Middle Eastern country, existing in a region where the haggling and over-pricing of the Souk is a way of life. Or maybe it’s something deeper within the Jewish mindset, with Israeli Jews no longer wanting to be incumbent on the whims of benefactors and not wanting to hand them the keys to their destiny again. It will be a very interesting year ahead, let alone an interesting few months. I can only hope that the people who do have influence over what the Middle East will look like in the next years and decades will not be frayerim.