For those who have been following U.S.-Israel-Iran relations, the one certainty we’ve come to expect is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will say all kinds of things that aren’t true in order to shift the balance away from peaceful diplomacy and towards war.
In a piece for The Washington Times, I took Bibi’s dubious declaration of the day and put it to the test, asking two technical experts what they thought of it. In short, it’s BS:
In an interview with a German newspaper published Tuesday, Netanyahu said, “The Iranians already have five bombs’ worth of low-enriched uranium,” which they could build within a matter of weeks after making the decision to rush for a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu’s estimate is a “chalkboard equation that does not match up with the realities of what it would actually take for Iran to breakout,” Daryll Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, said in an interview.
“It is designed to create a sense of alarmism,” about the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany).
…Muhammad Sahimi, professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the University of Southern California, said Netanyahu’s estimate of a breakout time is “sheer nonsense.”
“Iran does have a significant stockpile of LEU [low-enriched uranium], but it would take 9 months to convert them to crude bombs, and much longer to useable warheads (1-2 years at least),” Sahimi added. “There is no evidence that Iran does have the capability of miniaturizing the bomb for a missile.”
Ali Gharib has written a piece for medium.com that exposes a related point of deception on the part of Israel. Namely, the effort by the Israeli government to grossly exaggerate how much sanctions relief Iran is estimated to get out of this first-phase deal.
“Set aside Israel’s poor record on predicting an Iranian nuclear weapon, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dreadfully off-base prognostications about Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs,” Gharib writes,
“the star of this show is Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz. He’s the leader of what can rightfully be called Israel’s “information war” against an Iran deal.”
While the U.S. estimates for the dollar value of Iran’s limited first-phase sanctions relief were $7-8 billion, Steinitz aggressively told anyone who would listen (including members of Congress mulling additional sanctions) that they were really worth $20-40 billion. Well worth reading in full.
The hootin’ and hollerin’ Netanyahu has been engaging in since last week’s near-deal in the P5+1 talks with Iran is designed to derail the negotiations that the Obama administration has staked its waning political capital on. It accomplishes two things: (1) it undermines the diplomatic negotiations that are currently the only stopgap measure to avoid war with Iran, and (2) it is a direct attack on Barack Obama.
In the words of The National Interest‘s Robert Merry, Obama and Netanyahu have gone to war:
If [Obama] wants to save his high-stakes effort to foster a negotiated agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, he must take on, directly, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israel lobby in the United States. If he doesn’t, Congress will kill his effort; the opportunity to find a peaceful solution will be lost; and chances for war with Iran will rise ominously. Indeed, administration officials have warned that the current congressional push for new sanctions on Iran, in the midst of his delicate efforts, would constitute “a march to war.”
But that is precisely what Netanyahu seems to want…
Iran is widely (and misleadingly) touted as one of the greatest threats to United States. For the first time in more than 30-years, Washington is engaged with Iran in good faith negotiations that hold the potential to stave off yet another catastrophic war. The stakes are indeed huge. The irony is that Washington’s supposed best friend in the world is actively engaged in a belligerent campaign to drive this unprecedented diplomacy into the ground. How is it that no one in the entire U.S. government has stood up to say so? Goodness knows any other country in the world couldn’t get away with that kind of national security sabotage.