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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has, from the start, expressed vehement opposition to any deal that would release Iran from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for its promise to limit its nuclear power program, which many believe was designed to create weaponry.
He has the support of many in his own cabinet and in Washington, but the agreement has the support of President Obama, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the United Nations, many retired Israeli security officials, and now even the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), according to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The IAEC did not deny the veracity of the article, saying only that the information the newspaper received “was never voiced by anyone authorized by the Atomic Energy Commission.”
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The newspaper bases its story on a source identified only as being “familiar with the commission’s stance.” The IAEC agrees with the deal’s supporters that the agreement will prevent Iran from creating nuclear weapons based on the group’s analysis, conducted over the past several years, of how close Iran was from developing such a device.
Haaretz’s source, however, stressed that its conclusion was based solely on how the agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA), affects Iran’s technical ability to produce a nuclear weapon. It does not address how a lifting of the sanctions would affect Iran’s political and military status in the region and the world.
Critics say the pact could not only make it easier for Iran to achieve its goal of developing nuclear weapons, but also how a lifting of sanctions would enrich the Islamic Republic, enabling it to increase its support of terrorist groups in the Middle East.
The JCPA was agreed to in Vienna on July 14 after exhaustive negotiations between Iran and six world powers: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – and Germany. This side of the talks is known as the P5 Plus One.
The IAEC, which advises the Israeli government on nuclear matters, say it believes Iran couldn’t get away with cheating on the pact because of advanced Israeli methods of analysis and surveillance already in place to monitor Iran’s nuclear program. Haaretz reports that such findings are forwarded to the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will supervise Iran’s compliance.
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One clause in the JCPA allows 24 days’ advance notice of any IAEA inspection, which opponents of the agreement say would allow Iran to destroy evidence of weapons research before inspectors arrive. The source dismissed that criticism, telling Haaretz that the U.N. agency can recreate “the precise nature of the nuclear activity, going back not only 24 days but many many years.”
Already, the report said, the IAEC is satisfied with work already done to modify Iran’s heavy-water reactor in Arak so that it can’t be used to produce plutonium suitable for use in a nuclear weapon, and that any effort to undo those changes would be noticed by IAEA inspectors.
The JCPA also limits the reactions in Fordo and Natanz to 5,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
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Members of the IAEC would have preferred a lower limit, the story said, but added that even so, the risk of developing a bomb is remote because weapons built on enriched uranium are too heavy to be fitted easily on a ballistic missile needed in any attack on Israel.
Those agreeing with Netanyahu’s opposition to the JCPA include Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Others influential in Israel’s security establishment, however, have urged acceptance of the agreement.
For example, dozens of retired senior officials in the Israel Defense Forces, as well as former members of the intelligence agencies Mossad and Shin Bet, say the prime minister’s time would be better spent on bolstering Israel’s security rather than criticizing the Iran deal.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com