Last week, international monitors determined that Iran has enriched uranium to 84 percent—far beyond the level needed for any civilian activity, and just below the 90 percent necessary for building nuclear weapons. The news justifies the fears expressed by Benjamin Netanyahu eight years ago, when he gave his then-controversial address to a joint session of Congress, warning against the deal the Obama administration was on its way to concluding with Tehran. Looking back on the episode, Rick Richman writes:
The [agreement with Tehran] resulted in significant part from the fear that, as Iran’s nuclear program proceeded during the first four years of the Obama administration and Iran refused to negotiate, Israel was preparing to attack. . . . In his memoir, Netanyahu writes that [then-President Barack] “Obama waged a relentless campaign against the possibility of an independent Israeli attack.” Netanyahu relays that Obama “assured me he was building a military capacity and that it should be given a chance to work.” The former secretary of defense Leon Panetta later said that one of his most important jobs in 2011–13 had been keeping Israel from attacking. He did so in significant part by assuring Netanyahu and [his then-defense minister Ehud] Barak that President Obama was serious about taking military action, if it proved necessary. Netanyahu repeatedly postponed a plan to strike, unable to secure approval of his security cabinet given both the numerous risks and the American assurances.
In 2012, the U.S. began secret negotiations with Iran without informing Israel. When Israel discovered them, the Obama administration promised that: (i) any sanctions relief would be phased in; (ii) sanctions would be dismantled only when Iran’s nuclear program was dismantled; (iii) there would be “anytime, anywhere” inspections; and (iv) Iran would have to answer the long-standing questions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about its nuclear program.
In early 2013, the United States and its negotiating partners (Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China) offered Iran a deal—one that incorporated none of the assurances to Israel.
In December 2022, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) issued an authoritative analysis, titled “Iran Building Nuclear Weapons.” . . . It effectively confirmed what Netanyahu had told Congress in 2015 was the essence of the impending [agreement].