A strike against Iran is now more likely

The Iranian deal stitched up in Geneva last week by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his friend Baroness Ashton of Upholland, and applauded so obediently by their compliant cheerleader, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, represents a humiliating climbdown.

Iran — which was on the verge of a sanctions-enforced economic collapse — is now free to continue enriching uranium and to maintain unhindered its development of nuclear-weapons delivery systems. With the partial lifting of sanctions the Iranian economy will benefit from an influx of dollars in exchange for the sale of its oil and gas.

No wonder Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his deputy Abbas Araqchi looked so pleased with themselves as they faced the world’s media. Iran has been let off the hook.

Out of the carefully staged diplomatic farce performed for our delectation at Geneva, there could not possibly have come any other dénouement. None of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council was ever going to sanction war as a method of bringing the confrontation with Tehran to a head.

Obama had a carrot to tempt Bibi but he has jettisoned it

That’s not to say that President Obama does not have a policy. He does. It is to flood Iran with dollars, and to so lift the Iranian economy out of its depression that no sane leader of the Iranian people would ever dream of building a nuclear bomb and thus bringing a new-found prosperity to an end.

The operative word here is “sane.” No one on the right side of half-witted can seriously expect the regime in control in Tehran to abide by the letter of the Geneva agreement, let alone by its spirit. Tehran will cheat at every turn. It’s for this reason that what was agreed in Geneva makes an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities more, rather than less, likely.

I’ll return to this possibility in a moment. Right now, I must caution those who might conclude that the Geneva accord somehow represents a defeat for Israel.

It is worth remembering that it was only Bibi Netanyahu’s relentless campaign that brought Iran’s nuclear ambitions to the front of the world stage. One quite extraordinary result of these efforts has been a meeting of minds between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

If and when Israel launches airborne attacks against Iran’s atomic facilities, it will do so with Saudi support, and perhaps even through Saudi airspace. Such a de facto alliance, of the Jews and the Sunnis against the Iranian Shi’ites, would have once been unthinkable. But not any more. And the moral case for an Israeli attack on Iran is now stronger than ever: if Iran were ever to announce, or if it ever became known, that it had constructed or was constructing a viable nuclear device, which sanctions (or the renewed threat of them) had failed to halt — who could honestly blame Israel for defending itself?

I must also draw attention to the present state of another set of negotiations, that between Israel and the Palestinians. The two sides have not met since November 5. Expansion of Jewish population centres in Judea and Samaria continues apace. And whatever other differences they have, the constituent parts of the present Israeli coalition are adamant that Jerusalem will never be divided.

Having reached an accord with Iran, Mr Obama can hardly offer that possibility to Netanyahu as a quid pro quo – an end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for concessions to the Palestinians. Obama had a carrot — dangled, it is true, at the end of a stick — with which he might have tempted/cajoled Bibi into submission. Now he has thrown it away.

Meanwhile, the European High Representative for Foreign Affairs (aka Baroness Ashton) has beaten a hasty retreat from any confrontation with Israel over the EU’s “guidelines” on the funding of projects beyond the Green Line.

I have written ad nauseam about these wretched rules. I said that they amounted to nothing. So they do. When they come into effect next month, Israeli projects on both sides of the Line will continue to benefit from EU funding — a price that surely had to be paid in expiation, as it were, for Ashton’s leading role in the pathetic farce played out in Geneva.

Last updated: 9:45am, December 6 2013