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Behind Prime Minister Netanyahu's hard line

By       Message Brian Downing     Permalink
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While many parts of the world have called the Iranian nuclear deal a triumph of diplomacy, Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has branded it an "historic mistake." International inspection teams have determined that Iran has diluted its enriched uranium down to five percent -- well below weapons grade.

The PM does not speak for all of Israel. Mossad and the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission have expressed doubt that Iran is anywhere near to having a weapon as Netanyahu claims. His generals see little if any likelihood of an Iranian first strike, if it ever did get a nuclear device. And former spy chief Meir Dagan called Netanyahu's dire warnings before congress "bullshit."

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Netanyahu's words and counsel will be heard over and over as the Iran issue is debated in the halls of congress and elsewhere. His objections, however, should be considered in the context of the injudiciousness of past actions in world affairs and the ambitions implicit in present ones.

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Diplomatic insensitivity

Netanyahu wants Iran to completely dismantle its uranium-enrichment centrifuges at Natanz and Fordo. (Iran's research site at Parchin mysteriously blew up last fall.) A hardline position, however, suggests insufficient appreciation for diplomatic give-and-take and the need to leave each side with something to take home to its political and military leaders and to its public. Dismantling the centrifuges would not be acceptable to Iran's religious and military elites or to large parts of the public.

Most Iranians see their nuclear program as a source of national pride -- something that has been trod upon by foreign powers more than once over the last century. Further, they are mindful of the Iraq War (1980-88) which led to immense casualties. Netanyahu and his council should know this. Indeed, they almost certainly do know it.

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Emboldening great power diplomacy

Netanyahu looks askance at world powers' handling a major issue facing the international community. This concern is especially pronounced in his coalition of politicians and generals who favor more settlements in the West Bank. If world powers are successful with the Iranian nuclear issue, they may one day turn their attention to the Palestinian issue, and press Israel to refrain from further settlements and accede to a fully independent Palestinian state.

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Brian M Downing is a political-military analyst, and author of The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam.

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