The international community under the leadership of the U.S. appears to be closing in on signing a new nuclear deal with Iran. On both sides of the negotiating table, there are those who are taking care to create a thick smokescreen to “confuse the enemy.” Sadly, the enemy, in their eyes, isn’t Tehran, but those who oppose a deal with it—primarily Israel.
But the fog of battle eventually clears. Over the past few days, it’s become clear that, despite reports that both sides of the talks were digging in their heels to the point of an impasse and even a crisis, they are in fact nearing a decision.
From the first moment of Joe Biden’s presidency, his administration has openly stated that it is determined to reach a deal at almost any price, one that will allow the U.S. to close the “Iran file” and detach itself from the problems of the Middle East.
The Iranians, for their part, want a deal that will bring them sanctions relief. But they are less enthusiastic about a deal than the Americans, which is why they are making exorbitant demands with which the Americans will apparently comply.
There are some officials in Iran, particularly in the radical wing of its leadership, who see Iran’s isolation from the world and the atmosphere of siege the West has imposed on it as a blessing. There’s nothing like the sense of the entire world being against Iran to ensure the survival of the ayatollah regime and garner popular support for it.
In any case, the West is repeating the mistakes it made with the Taliban, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Russia in assuming that economic sanctions have the power to bring down a regime or force it to change its policies.
In effect, the Iranians are dragging their feet, not only a negotiating tactic, but also because of their supreme leader’s dilemma—does Iran need a deal at all?
It’s a good question. Why, in fact, does there have to be a deal? No one disputes that the Iranians have made major progress toward nuclear weapons in recent years. Attempts to stop it have slowed Iran’s progress and bought precious time to prepare for what may be inevitable—a nuclear Iran.
It’s clear that the Iranians need more time to develop a bomb, and even more time to develop the capability to deliver it. But this process cannot be reversed, and in any case, Iranian announcements of nuclear capabilities, even without “proof,” are enough to send the region into a panic.
The new proposal asks Iran to sit quietly and not “tell the world” that it has nuclear capabilities. For the Iranians, this is neither a plus nor a minus. A deal will allow them to retain everything they have achieved thus far. They’ll make it to a nuclear bomb in any case, although we can assume that, in the meantime, they’ll prefer to maintain ambiguity and avoid any provocative step that is not necessary to their battle with Israel for regional hegemony.
But experience teaches us that a radical, aggressive power such as Iran cannot be stopped by smiles, bribes or deals that give us quiet for a time but do not lead to any true change of direction. After all, the forces of evil always aspire to achieve power and show it off, and when it comes to the nuclear question, Iran’s reasoning is that only power will ensure its survival and future. The Iranian bomb hasn’t been neutralized, and even if the countdown slows, things will one day come to a head.
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.