Analysis: Israel, US Striking Different Paths over Iranian Threat

The latest round of talks between Iran and the major world powers have again highlighted that the West longs for talks to triumph over conflict, while Iran is happy to let such hopes linger. While the question of whether such hopes will prove fruitful or foolish still hangs in the air, another subtler reality is unfolding: Israel and the US have very different views on Iran.

The most recent negotiations between Iran and the P5+1—the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany—unveiled more of those US-Israel differences of belief in the timeline in the P5+1’s proposal. In short, the US appears to believe there is considerably more time to stop Iran than Israel does.

According to the Iranian Fars News Agency, Tehran claimed the confidence-building measures in the new proposal are for a period of six months. Assuming that would start after the next round of talks in April, at the earliest, that means that the confidence-building round would end in October or later. Hence, the next phase would begin in the fall.

By way of contrast, last year Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Iran was poised to cross a red line in its nuclear fuel process by this summer. Specifically, the Israeli premier cautioned that Iran is poised to produce enough mid-level enriched uranium to then upgrade it to weapons-grade for a bomb. Once they reach that stage, Netanyahu said it could be too late to stop them.

While its possible that the confidence-building measure proposed by the P5+1 actually demands Iran slow or stop such enrichment, that is officially unclear. The US refused comment on the details of the plan in a briefing with reporters, while a European diplomat chose not to discuss them with The Mideast Update.

However, what is clear is that Iran is saying the West actually moved “closer” to its position in its latest proposal. Iran has long demanded it be allowed to enrich uranium—could the West have backed down on this issue?

If so, can Israel afford to wait on the P5+1 to achieve something in diplomacy with Iran as their red line potentially passes? Answers will need to be found, and soon.

At the very least, the US and its allies appear to be growing desperate for diplomacy to work. Perhaps it is seen as a last chance for peace to prevail over conflict. But after months of not talking, the P5+1 revised its offer to Iran and Tehran appeared pleased.

Israel, on the other hand, presented a very different view on the best way to tackle Iran’s nuclear program. The same day the West announced its new proposal to Iran, Netanyahu was quoted by his office as calling for more sanctions and a clear military threat.

Netanyahu said Iran “continues to defy all the international standards” and that he believes “that this requires the international community to ratchet up its sanctions and make clear that if this continues there will be also a credible military sanction.” Said the Israeli leader, “I think no other means will make Iran obey the wishes of the international community.”

Clearly a difference to the West’s approach. Should Iran choose to extend this negotiating process, the following months could prove critical for the US, Israel and Iran.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, February 27, 2013)