Expectedly, the new developments on the Tehran nuclear issue are not the calm before the storm. The interim agreement reached in November between Iran and six world powers -- the United States, China, Britain, France, Germany and Russia -- and the late developments of December may lead to some far-reaching settlement and controversial matters that will be ironed out before the deal can be put into practice. Options are few in numbers for all stakeholders, including Israel.
The recent U.S. action of blacklisting some firms and individuals for evading sanctions on Iran is an attempt to appease hawkish elements in the Congress as well as U.S. friends in the Middle East. The move will release some pressure on the Obama administration for their position on Iran's nuclear program that has a decade-long history of stiff U.S. opposition and stringent sanctions of a different nature. Interestingly, the interim agreement has been a result of backdoor diplomacy that started three years back at a time when a "wolf" (as Israeli prime minister Neytanyahu dubs former Iranian President Ahmadinejad) was at the helm of affairs in Tehran. This approach matured after the June election of comparative moderate Hassan Rouhani as Iranian president.
In a recent interview with TIME, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif spoke about how the Geneva nuclear deal came together.
"I can tell you that we started discussing this issue on the sidelines of the P5+1 with various countries, but with all the countries that were involved we have normal diplomatic relations. It may become more interesting when it involves the United States. That started a long time ago -- probably three years ago. Our nuclear negotiator at that time, Dr. [Saeed] Jalili, met with [Undersecretary of State] Bill Burns on the sidelines of Geneva. And since then, there have been back and forth discussions between Iran and the U.S. inside and on the sidelines of P5+1," Zarif told TIME.
Though apparent that the U.S. took the soft stance after the election of Rouhani, Zarif disclosed that all this had been in pipeline since long earlier.
Israel's increasing isolation is a major reason behind this interim pact. Due to this failure on the diplomatic front, Israel could not convince the world to attack Iranian nuclear sites.
Haaretz, an Israeli news website and one of the oldest newspapers, wrote in one of its opinions:
The absence of Israel's senior leadership from Mandela's funeral is no accident, and it can be seen as a symbol of Israel's increasing diplomatic isolation. Israel is gradually being evicted from the international community because of its insistence on continuing the occupation and even reinforcing it via more and more settlements, while turning its back on diplomatic processes and initiatives. This situation, whose implications first began making themselves felt in the negotiations over the Horizon 2020 scientific cooperation agreement, endangers Israel no less, and perhaps even more, than the plethora of regional threats that worry Netanyahu, and about which he is constantly warning.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has also talked about this isolation in an interview with Channel 2 television in early November.
"If we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel; there will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that's been taking place on an international basis," Kerry told Channel 2.
The chances of passage of any UNSC resolution for attack on Iran nuclear sites seem bleak in the presence of China and Russia because economic interests of Moscow and Beijing will also be at stake in any such situation.
Again, bombing Iranian nuclear sites, especially the Arak heavy water plant, is not as simple. It will have far-reaching consequences for the region because Iran will retaliate to the extent it can. Both Israeli and Iranian nations have something common: stubbornness and patriotism. And if in any situation they are involved in some direct war-like situation, they both will leave no stone unturned in destroying each other. Israel can afford any war against any nation, but its Achilles' heel is its area, which is only 10,425 sq. miles. It is one of the reasons for its strong opposition to Iran's nuclear program.
Again, it is not so easy for Israel to attack Iranian sites; otherwise, it would have done it a long time ago without taking care of any nation.
Firstly, Iran has a well-trained military consisting of over 500,000 troops. Iran has a close relations with Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic jihadists, and they will be used as additional troops. Though the Iranian army lacks nukes, Iran has made advancements in conventional weapons, and if these weapons are used by Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic jihadists too, the fire of war will engulf the Middle East and burn out of control.
Another reason stopping Israel from taking any devastating step is that Iran is recognized as a headquarter of Shiite Muslims around the world. Shiite Muslims hold Iran in high esteem and it enjoys the same status as Mecca enjoys among all other Muslim sects. If Iran is attacked, the reaction will be far more severe than that toward attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan.
It may be because of the aforementioned reasons that the U.S. has given dialogue a chance, though this decision made Israel and Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf Cooperation Council member states annoyed.
This annoyance was clear during the address of the Israeli Prime Minister's address at "Power Shifts: U.S.-Israel Relations in a Dynamic Middle East," organized by the Saban Forum at Brookings Institution.
On the other hand, Iran, too, is wary of sanctions that are crushing its economy. Iranian President Rouhani has won the election by playing the role of getting rid of international sanctions and winning back world trust. So it will be a win-win situation for both if the pact matures in coming days.