The Institute for National Security Studies recently conducted a simulation of the diplomatic and other consequences of a “bad deal” between the P5+1 and Iran on the nuclear issue—or, more accurately, what Israel might consider a “bad deal.”
As the talks between Iran and the P5+1 continue, the INSS Arms Control and Regional Security Program held a simulation exercise on September 29, 2014 to explore possible developments following a “bad nuclear deal” – one that effectively enables Iran to maintain a nuclear breakout capability. The assumption of the game’s opening scenario was that an agreement that might look reasonable could actually contain many interpretation loopholes that render it “bad.” In the simulation, following Israel’s initial reaction to the deal, Israeli, US, Russian, European, Iranian, and Gulf teams grappled with the implications of the new reality. The objective of the game was to spur a dynamic thought process regarding the possible implications if such an agreement is signed with Iran.
The opening scenario was as follows:
On the morning of November 25, 2014, following a marathon session of negotiations in Geneva, Iran and the P5+1 reached a last minute agreement on a comprehensive deal. The agreement removes sanctions against Iran in return for the partial dismantlement of its nuclear program. US President Barack Obama described the deal as a “landmark agreement that distances Iran from a nuclear weapon and sends a message to determined proliferators everywhere.”
Israel is alarmed that the agreement does not deal with Iran’s current stockpile of low enriched uranium, does not dismantle centrifuges, and approves a reconfiguration of Arak that would enable limited amounts of plutonium to be extracted from the heavy water reactor. The agreement acknowledges Iran’s right to continue enrichment, though limiting the amount of 3.5 percent enriched uranium readily available for further enrichment, and provides for the phased removal of sanctions, even though the P5+1 have exposed Iran’s clear violation of the NPT in the weaponization work it has carried out. Israel’s dismay and anger over the deal was reinforced by the reaction of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who declared that the “agreement was a demonstration of Iran’s resolve and its refusal to buckle in the face of pressure.” An Israeli official stated that as a result of the deal, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon within four months of a decision to do so.
According to the INSS, the main insights of the simulation were:
a. The deal that appears to meet the needs of all the parties could actually constitute a bad agreement, because of a lack of attention to the technical details. The deal in essence enables Iran to remain a nuclear threshold state and grants legitimacy to this status.
b. The assessment of any agreement with Iran requires an extensive evaluation of technical considerations and terminology.
c. In order to obtain international support for Israel’s position, it is recommended that Israel focus its diplomatic activity on no more than the aforementioned five key problems that it identifies in the deal.
d. The opening scenario in which the US President signs an agreement before the prior approval of the US Congress is a distinct possibility.
e. In the event that the agreement requires the approval of the UN Security Council, there may be an opportunity for Israel to take diplomatic action to try to influence the content of the agreement. Nevertheless, once it is signed, there is little likelihood that Israel will succeed in this regard.
f. The simulation demonstrated that US fears of an Israeli attack against Iran’s facilities have diminished. It appears that the concerns over an Israeli strike are no longer a significant factor among United States calculations. This could well lead to strategic surprise should Israel attack after facing a “bad deal.”
You’ll find the full simulation report at the link above. See also the updated Israel vs Iran wargame compendium at Wargaming Connections.