Iran: No more doubts

By Emanuele Ottolenghi, November 10, 2011
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After two weeks of speculation about a possible Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear installations, the Israeli government went silent - the onset of winter makes any military operation unlikely until the spring anyway and the media hype appeared to be a bluff.

The reasons for the bluff were made available on Tuesday afternoon when the International Atomic Energy Agency released its much anticipated progress report on Iran's nuclear programme.

For some time, it was assumed that the IAEA report would offer an unprecedented, up-to-date and detailed analysis of Iran's nuclear programme. It did. If Israel's posturing as the unpredictable player was meant to tilt the balance of the tough diplomatic game played around the report, it worked.

The IAEA did not give in to diplomatic pressure from Iran's enablers, Russia and China, and issued the closest thing one gets to an unequivocal indictment by a UN agency.

The diplomatic flurry that followed will, inevitably, blur the issues as the IAEA gathers in Vienna for an in-depth discussion on the report's findings. Iran has already dismissed the report as "politically motivated", while Russia, even before the report was released, issued a stern warning to Israel about military action and hinted that only diplomacy can address this problem - a fascinating suggestion, given that nine years of talks have yielded nothing tangible from Iran. Regardless of the usual smokescreen raised by Iran's friends and their diplomats (and, presumably, from Iran's guns-for-hire in Western media), the report makes this much clear:

● Iran is building a nuclear weapon and trying to fit it on a long-range missile.

● Iran has been trying for many years to achieve this goal.

● Iran's efforts did not stop as a result of political pressures.

● They did not halt under reformist presidents.

● They did not falter because of sanctions.

No political instrument will persuade Iran to change its course. Nor is there appetite for more sanctions. Russia and China will not support them, and even among Western allies there are cracks.

It is not surprising, then, that on Tuesday night, Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered his ministers to keep mum on the subject.

The curtains are about to fall on Iran's great piece-de-theatre, but America - the nation that invented the happy ending - has no appetite for the kind of action that will ensure the bad guys lose. As for other world powers, they just wish this would go away. Israel stands alone once again.

This will be a long, cold winter. But, come spring, the chips will be down. And if Israel is still standing alone, do not expect just rhetoric.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies

Last updated: 12:12pm, November 10 2011