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                                        Volume. 11976

Former U.S. officials detect shift in Israel on Iran nuclear deal: Al-Monitor
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c_330_235_16777215_0_http___172.19.100.100_images_stories_famous_02_irannuc2.jpgTEHRAN – Israel increasingly expects that a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers will be reached, and has raised concerns with U.S. interlocutors about monitoring and enforcement of the deal, former U.S. officials and Iran policy experts involved in recent discussions with the Israelis tell Al-Monitor.
 
While Israel’s official position remains that the only acceptable Iran nuclear deal would be “zero, zero, zero,” – meaning no centrifuges, domestic uranium enrichment, or the facilities to produce them—former U.S. officials and experts involved in recent consultations with the Israelis detect that Israel’s position on the matter has shifted as the prospect of a deal being reached has increased. Israeli officials are now focusing on concerns of what happens if a deal is reached, how can monitoring and verification be sufficient to detect if there is a violation, and how would such violations of an agreement be deterred or dealt with, at a time when Israel assesses U.S. credibility as weakened on the world stage, including because of events in Ukraine and Syria.
 
Most Israeli officials and experts “seem to understand that ‘zero, zero, zero’ is not going to happen,” a member of a U.S. group of experts and former senior officials recently in Israel for consultations, speaking not for attribution, told Al-Monitor in an interview this week. They seem “to understand that there is a need for a domestic, indigenous civil nuclear program….for the Iranians to” deal with their domestic opposition.
 
“Israel is very concerned about the current discussions with Iran because all signs point to the P5+1 accepting a deal that will leave Iran’s nuclear … capability intact,” Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer told an Anti Defamation League conference this week.
 
“Our policy is simple,” Dermer said. “Let Iran have only a peaceful nuclear program and nothing more.”
 
“On substantive issues, there is probably room for maneuver,” a senior former U.S. diplomat involved in the April consultations in Israel told Al-Monitor on condition he not be named, referring to Israel’s requirements for an Iran nuclear deal.
 
“But two issues are going to be very hard to persuade the Israelis on,” the former U.S. diplomat continued. “Monitoring: There is very little belief anywhere in Israel that (a comprehensive nuclear) accord can be monitored… that ensures there is not going to be clandestine activity, and the Iranians (could) not break out” at some phase.
 
“That is a serious concern,” the former U.S. diplomat said. “I don’t want to minimize it, because monitoring is going to be a huge problem.”
 
The Israelis are also deeply concerned, the former U.S. diplomat said, that if there is a violation by Iran of a final nuclear accord, that the violation will be seen by Washington as too ambiguous or incremental, that there “is no smoking gun.”
 
The Israelis are “nervous that the U.S. will continuously say, ‘we are checking into it, we need more proof,’” the former diplomat described. “At what point does the cumulative effect of the small things add up to a violation?”
 
In addition, the Israelis are concerned that the United States does not have a sufficiently credible military threat to deter a future Iranian violation of a comprehensive agreement, the Iran policy expert said. “That is problematic from an Israeli perspective.”
 
The Iran policy expert said it was her group’s assessment that while the Iran nuclear negotiations are ongoing, there won’t be a unilateral strike by Israel. “While they are ongoing,” she repeated.
 
There continues to be a lot of “frustration” from the Israeli side that they will be “profoundly impacted” by a nuclear deal, even though they are not in the room for the P5+1 talks with Iran, nor do they feel the U.S. was forthcoming with them about U.S.-Iran bilateral contacts leading up to the interim nuclear deal last fall.
 
Israeli officials felt deeply betrayed that their U.S. counterparts were not more forthcoming with them last year about the extent of U.S.-Iranian bilateral contacts on a nuclear deal. The U.S. has said the secrecy was necessary to maintain the sensitive bilateral channel, and they did not mean to be deceptive. However, a sense of betrayal may have contributed to Israeli distrust and denunciations of the interim Iran nuclear deal reached in Geneva last November, U.S. and Israeli sources have told Al-Monitor. 
 
If a nuclear deal is reached that allows Iran to maintain a nuclear threshold capacity, it could emerge from economic sanctions and seek European and Japanese technology to develop itself as an industrial power, while maintaining its policies on the region, Israeli sources have described official thinking in interviews this week.
 
Israel and Sunni powers fear Iran would be empowered by the lifting of sanctions after a prospective nuclear deal, while competing for power and influence in the region and beyond.
 
AM/PA

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