It was all about Iran at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Iranian regime sought to entice the West into accepting its nuclear program with promises of profit, while Israel showcased itself as the “innovation nation” that can lead the region to peace.
There are seismic strategic shifts already happening in the Middle East, in large part due to the nuclear deal with Iran and the business opportunities it presents to Europe, Turkey and Russia. The Europeans are undoubtedly tempted by the prospect of Iranian natural gas deliveries via Turkey, and Russia hopes to import more Iranian oil, increasing the regime’s exports by a whopping 50%.
A microcosm of this shift was on display at Davos when President Rouhani addressed major energy executives, dangling the prospect of lucrative business in Iran if sanctions are lifted. He also lobbied U.S., European and Arab companies for investments in energy, infrastructure, mining, automobile industries and other sectors.
“I view Iran’s economy as the most congruent, capable and closest to that of successful emerging economies,” Rouhani said.
He also deployed the usual taqiyya, the Shiite doctrine of deception, in regards to nuclear weapons.
“We never sought and will never seek nuclear weapons,” he said.
However, the Iranian regime still will not give international inspectors access to the Parchin military base where it is believed nuclear-related explosives experiments were carried out. The regime started cleansing the site after these tests were exposed.
In 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency released an incriminating report showing that Iran developed technologies only suitable for a nuclear missile. This included work on a nuclear warhead for its Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, nuclear triggers and even preparations for an underground nuclear test.
“I strongly and clearly declare that nuclear weapons have no place in our security strategy and that Iran has no motivation to move in that direction,” he said.
This is the important caveat. Rouhani is speaking in the present tense. If Iran adjusts its “security strategy” in the future, then this pledge is no longer valid. The Iranians will simply claim that they “never sought” nukes and had “no motivation” to build them, but were forced to do so.
The prospects of a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran dimmed with comments made by top Iranian officials at the event.
In an interview with CNN, Rouhani said Iran will “not under any circumstances” destroy any of its centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium. Even more broadly, he vowed, “We will not accept any limitations” on nuclear technology.
The Iranian Foreign Minister likewise said in Davos that his country “did not agree to dismantle anything.” He accused the Obama Administration of falsely characterizing the deal.
The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister illustrated the weakness of the current deal by boasting, “We can return again to 20% enrichment in less than one day, and we can convert the material again.” Therefore, “the structure of our nuclear program is preserved.”
All of these statements show how difficult it will be to reach a final nuclear deal with Iran in six months. The Iranian regime wants to make powerful companies salivate at the thought of investing in Iran in order to pressure the West into accepting an otherwise unacceptable nuclear deal.
A new study by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that a viable deal must cause Iran to stay six months to one year away from creating a nuclear weapon.
This means dismantling 15,000 centrifuges, leaving only 4,000 left. That’s 15,000 more than Rouhani is willing to accept. It also requires that Iran close its underground enrichment facility at Qom, accept invasive inspections and convert its Arak heavy water reactor into a light water reactor.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told the World Economic Forum that Rouhani’s speeches are a “change of words with unchanging deeds.” He pointed out that this is why Arab governments that fear Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood have come to see Israel as a “partner.”
Netanyahu described his country as the “Innovation Nation” and promoted it as a base for technology companies. He boasted that few Western countries weathered the economic storm better than Israel has. The country’s economy grew 3.3% last year and 3.4% the previous year. Foreign direct investment exceeded 2012’s total when 2013 still had a full quarter left.
He also argued that Israel’s economic success should be a model for the region and that investors in his country actually contribute to the well-being of Arabs, including Palestinians.
Israeli investment and business with Palestinians is helping the West Bank grow economically. For example, Israeli training of Palestinian farmers has assisted its agricultural sector. Israeli security measures, condemned by Palestinians and Arabs, have created the safe environment for Palestinian businesses to be birthed.
SodaStream, an Israeli company located in a settlement 15 minutes from Jerusalem, is actually a microcosm of the economic integration that can serve the cause of peace. The Interfaith Boycott Coalition, a wing of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, is targeting the company and those who support it, like actress Scarlett Johansson.
Even Al-Arabiya recognizes that the boycott hurts Palestinians. SodaStream employs 900 Palestinians, 500 from the West Bank and 400 from East Jerusalem. The female workers are allowed to wear the hijab and the workers are given the same treatment as the Israeli ones. There’s even a mosque on site and Israelis and Palestinians eat lunch together.
The businessmen at Davos that invest in Israel are investing in peace. Those that invest in Iran are trying to profit off of terrorism, tyranny and nuclear weapons.
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