Following the unsigned non-agreement on the contents of which no-one agrees in · Lausanne, declared “historic” by President Obama (which it surely is, in the sense that the 1938 Munich agreement and the 1994 North Korean agreement were historic), President Putin of Russia has reversed the 2010 decision on the part of Russia to not sell the S-300 antiaircraft missile system to Iran. He also revived a barter deal with Iran of Russian agricultural equipment for Iranian oil.
These decisions, designed to spit in the face of the United States, will accomplish the following:
* Demonstrate that the U.S. no longer calls the shots in the Middle East in particular or in the world in general.
* Demonstrate that even before any actual agreement is reached, if it ever is, the sanctions regime is already dead, by violating the most central aspect of it, the prohibition on selling weapons to Iran.
* Demonstrate that he can simultaneously violate the sanctions imposed on Iran as well as those imposed on Russia itself due to its aggression against Ukraine, with impunity. Russia does not need oil-oil and gas is its only exports, other than weapons systems. What it will do is sell the Iranian oil and pocket the money, thereby neatly bypassing its own sanctions. One might call this “product laundering” to go along with the more common “’money laundering”
The Russian decision substantially increases the general uncertainty of the entire situation surrounding Iran’s nuclear plans and progress, and what to do about them.
A famous chess master, in a book entitled STRUGGLE, made the following statement: “The threat is more powerful than the deed”. And indeed he was correct. If Russia keeps the details of the missile deal obscure, such as which version of the S-300 is involved, when delivery is scheduled and how long before the system is operational, it can make planning for any air attack on its nuclear facilities essentially impossible.
As a result of the fecklessness of the Western countries which has led to the cynical measures just taken by Putin, the following counter-measures to the Iranian nuclear plans are rendered unviable:
An attack on the nuclear facilities is unlikely because Israel does not have sufficiently powerful bunker-buster bombs and the U.S., which has them, will not use them. By the time the U.S. administration changes, the anti-aircraft hardware will be in place and operational.
- An Israeli attack on Iran’s civilian infrastructure would lead to almost unanimous international condemnation of Israel and U.N. Security Council sanctions WHICH WOULD NOT BE VETOED BY WASHINGTON as long as Obama is in The effect on the Israeli economy would be extremely serious.
An EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack, which is being talked about on both sides of the Atlantic, would have even more disastrous effects on the Iranian civilian populations, could probably not be limited to Iranian territory and would cause a massive refugee crisis as millions of Iranians would flee their country in search of food, water, etc. Again, certain to result in sanctions imposed on Israel by the U.N.
In either case, Iran would certainly retaliate by ordering Hezbollah to forget Assad and attack Israel with thousands of rockets and missiles, from Lebanon and Syria. Ten percent of ten thousand rockets is still a thousand rockets raining down not on the Negev desert but on densely populated areas of northern Israel.
Strengthening of the sanctions regime would be out of the question. The sanctions regime is finished. Thus whatever the U.S. Congress does will be essentially pointless. The Obama Administration has won by default.
This leaves only one real alternative; to live with an Iran capable of producing nuclear weapons or even producing one or two (where would Iran test them?) and using the ensuing period of years before it achieves the ability to miniaturize nuclear weapons and provide them to its terrorist proxies. The time would he used to plan for more effective cyber attacks on the Iranian systems as well as strategies for promoting regime change in Iran.
In January 2017 the administration in Washington will change. After this change, Israel and the U.S. may well cooperate effectively in pursuing these strategies, along with the Sunni powers opposing Iranian regional plans.
Speculation is that prior knowledge of the Russian plans sparked the “secret” negotiations between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Labor Party leader Herzog concerning the possibility of a unity government, with the enthusiastic blessing of President Rivlin. [By law, Netanyahu has to form his new coalition government by April 22, or can ask the President for additional two weeks. R.E.].
*Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and teaches at the Center for National Security Studies and Geostrategy, University of Haifa.
* A version of this article will be published by Globes.Il.com