Why Israel's Stance Could Help the Iran Deal Succeed

Even as Republicans continue to attack the six-month deal reached by the U.S. and P5+1 world powers with Iran, in which the latter would give up its nuclear ambitions in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, and Secretary of State John Kerry tries to prevent new sanctions being imposed by Congress, there is some hope on the horizon, and it comes from an unexpected source: Israel.

Israel has made it clear that it is skeptical about the agreement and will not hesitate to attack Iran if necessary, and so on the face of it this might seem like a hindrance to peace being achieved. But when examined from a tactical perspective, Israel's stance may actually help the deal succeed.

On one hand, Iran's options are severely limited. The country's economy is reeling from high inflation (40 percent), soaring unemployment (35 percent), a restricted supply of dollars, and a steep decline in oil revenues due to sanctions -- which accounts for 80 percent of the country's public revenues. Economic instability can weaken the grip of Rouhani's government and so the moderate leader has every reason to ensure that the current deal succeeds.

However, despite this reality and Iran's new era of diplomacy, hardline politics and religious fundamentalism still hold sway in the nation. The hardliners who are currently supporting the accord could turn on Rouhani in a heartbeat, and the lifting of sanctions -- though attractive -- may not be enough to alter the historical dynamic between Iran and the West.

What will help and ensure that the next six months (during which the international community decides whether Iran is serious about halting its march towards nuclear armament) sees a sincere effort by Tehran to meet its obligations is Israel's cynicism in the background. Specifically, the joint U.S.-Israeli military exercises that are scheduled for May of 2014 send a clear signal to Rouhani that should his government not honor its deal with the P5+1 nations, its Jewish neighbor will preserve the option to pre-emptively strike Iran's nuclear facilities.

More crucially, Israel has every reason to attack Iran sooner than later. In a military variation on the Prisoner's Dilemma, a pre-emptive strike by Tel Aviv against Tehran before it attains full nuclear capability is preferable from the Jewish nation's strategic standpoint than waiting for its neighbor to arm itself.

I am not saying that Israel's action would be justified -- just that it is the most likely one.

What this means is that the current deal could be Iran's last window of opportunity to forestall disaster for itself and its Arab allies, and there may really be no choice but to play along. It is also worth noting that while Israel's refusal to accept the deal and continuing hostility towards Iran may be bothersome to peace advocates, it is highly unlikely that Tel Aviv will actually act without U.S. consent now that a deal has been struck -- unless Iran reneges.

The burden now is on Rouhani to make good on his promises and bring his country into line with international expectations and engage with the world community. It will not be easy but the threat of an Israeli attack and the breakout of an all-out war that nobody can ultimately win might be just the motivation and justification his government needs to pull it off. The Iranian people elected Rouhani to the Presidency in the hopes of a better, and more prosperous, future for their country, but that future can only be attained if Iran agrees to give up its nuclear ambitions.

If nothing else, the upcoming war games between Israel and the US should serve as a reminder to Tehran that the only way to win is not to play.

SANJAY SANGHOEE is a political and business commentator. He has worked at leading investment banks as well as at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund. His opinion pieces appear in Huffington Post, TIME, Bloomberg Businessweek, FORTUNE, and Christian Science Monitor, and he has appeared on HuffPost Live, CNBC's 'Closing Bell',, and MSNBC's 'The Cycle'. He is also the author of two thriller novels.

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