New studies back PM’s skepticism on Iran diplomacy
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New studies back PM’s skepticism on Iran diplomacy

Publications by former military chief Yadlin and others warn that the ‘talks-only’ approach may soon cease to make an impact on Tehran

Diplomats participate in the fourth round of high-level talks with an Iranian delegation, right, aimed at stopping the Islamic regime's nuclear program from making atomic weapons in Almaty, Kazakhstan in February. (photo credit: AP/ Shamil Zhumatov, Pool)
Diplomats participate in the fourth round of high-level talks with an Iranian delegation, right, aimed at stopping the Islamic regime's nuclear program from making atomic weapons in Almaty, Kazakhstan in February. (photo credit: AP/ Shamil Zhumatov, Pool)

With presidential elections looming in Iran next week, several publications issued recently in Israel and the US appear to support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pessimistic view that international diplomacy or politics in Tehran will curb its nuclear program.

Speaking in the Knesset on Wednesday, Netanyahu declared that Iran would continue to pursue nuclear weapons no matter the election results. And while refraining in recent months from reiterating his March 2013 AIPAC conference statement that “sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat” against Iran, the prime minister has continued to emphasize that sanctions have not stopped the nuclear program.

Against the backdrop of Netanyahu’s views on the issue, the past two weeks have seen the release of several publications — including some by former senior officials — which, like the prime minister, are implicitly critical of the “diplomacy-only” approach to Iran.

Former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin has been particularly active in this context among Israelis. He recently co-authored a Washington Institute position paper, together with retired US Marine Corps General James Cartwright, focusing on military attack scenarios. At about the same time, the Institute for Strategic Security Studies which he heads released a document explicitly questioning the current US policy on Iran.

Former senior US administration official Dennis Ross has also weighed in on the subject. In a new article in Foreign Affairs, Ross contended that recent developments in Iran’s elections campaign indicated that its nuclear intransigence would continue. Ross also opined in a Washington Post piece, co-authored with Washington Institute senior fellow David Makovsky, that the US must now make sure Tehran understands that the use of force is a very real option.

Meanwhile, an IDF-sponsored study that has more quietly gone viral provided additional fodder to reinforce Netanyahu’s position. Written in a private capacity by Yehuda Ya’akov, a Foreign Ministry specialist on political-military affairs, the new report from the Israel National Defense College determined that in lieu of effective diplomacy, Tehran was “moving toward the point in which the international community will have no significant immediate-impact preventive tool or other means of leverage to employ except the use of force.”

The study has also brought to light pertinent information regarding Iranian elections candidates, particularly former chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani. Ya’akov reveals that, beyond Rouhani’s admission that he exploited diplomacy to advance his country’s nuclear program, he made clear during a little-known address to the Iranian parliament in 2004 that he viewed Pakistan — which possesses nuclear capabilities — as a role model for his country’s effort to master the nuclear fuel cycle in the face of world opposition.

This combination of May 2013 file photos shows the eight candidates approved for Iran's June 14, 2013 presidential election to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Top row from left are Mohammad Gharazi, Mohsen Rezaei, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf and Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. Bottom row from left are Hassan Rouhani, Mohammad Reza Aref, Ali Akbar Velayati, Saeed Jalili. (AP Photo/File)
This combination of May 2013 file photos shows the eight candidates approved for Iran’s June 14, 2013 presidential election to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Top row from left are Mohammad Gharazi, Mohsen Rezaei, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf and Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. Bottom row from left are Hassan Rouhani, Mohammad Reza Aref, Ali Akbar Velayati, Saeed Jalili. (AP Photo/File)

Another relevant detail accentuated by the document regarded candidate Ali Akbar Velayati, while he served as Supreme Leader Khamenei’s foreign affairs advisor: soon after a July 2003 visit to Iran by Mohamed ElBaradei, then head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Velayati told a member of Rouhani’s team that he equated signing the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) with “betrayal.”

Velayeti made it clear at the time that Tehran would never sign the agreement, which grants the IAEA expanded rights of access to sites and information, and Iran has continued this policy ever since.

Velayati has remained consistent in his views for the past decade. In a recent interview given to a French journal, he termed the IAEA’s reports “provocations.” During the recent election campaign, Velayati vowed  to protect Iran’s nuclear “achievements” through diplomacy.

Generally speaking, the nuclear crisis seems to be competing with economic issues for attention in Iran’s elections campaign debate. Khamenei made his stand clear this week, when he urged presidential candidates not to make concessions to appease the West. His statement, which reinforced the hard-line rhetoric adopted by candidate and nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, would appear to further vindicate the lack of optimism prevalent in Israel regarding the influence of Iran’s elections on the future of the nuclear crisis.

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