Sunday, October 25, 2009

Analysis / Expect more trickery from Iran in nuclear talks

(Amos Harel-Haaretz).The excited responses, in praise or condemnation, proved to have been too soon. Iran continues operating at its own pace. The last deadline that the international negotiators set was Friday, and the Iranians did not bother to issue an official response to the draft agreement on giving most of their enriched uranium to Europe to be treated.

Instead of a response, Iran issued a rather murky promise of one toward the middle of the week, accompanied, as is customary, by contradictory signals. Last Wednesday's initial positive declaration was replaced with skepticism and further preconditions. We can assume fairly certainly that this is how Tehran will conduct itself in the future: more conditions, more delays, a strategy of making the powers believe it is still possible to resolve the crisis by peaceful means while squeezing out more concessions and buying more time for the centrifuges.

From Israel's point of view, there is an inkling of positive news in last week's developments. The draft agreement, as it was presented last week, would not end Iran's nuclear program, only postpone it. If it is adopted, it would make Israel appear to be an eternal skeptic. If on the other hand Iran rejects the deal, it will emerge as the refusenik.

A failure in the negotiations may expedite stricter sanctions against Iran. This will probably not be a Security Council initiative because China opposes this, but rather an American-European plan, which would have a shot at convincing the Iranians to reconsider freezing their race for the bomb. But we are still far from that. On the way there will be further ups and downs, certainly accompanied by other acts of trickery by Tehran.

Israel has responded wisely - it has kept a low profile, while retaining one advantage: its intelligence on the Iranian program is considered largely reliable and accurate, and is readily welcomed by the powers. The difficulty lies elsewhere. The international community, at least at this stage, does not favorably view an attack - by the U.S. or Israel - on the Iranian nuclear sites. It also appears that the declarations of the Iranian leadership, in particular President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, cause more fear in Israel than in the West.