The Iran Nuclear Deal, or the ‘The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ (JCPOA) was negotiated between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) as well as Germany and the European Union. Although some neighbouring countries, including Israel, criticised the deal and called it seriously defective, the agreement was reached on 14 July 2015.
Amongst other things, Iran agreed to get rid of all its medium-enriched uranium and reduce its low-enriched uranium by 98%. They also agreed to reduce their gas centrifuges by 2/3rds and not build any new heavy-water facilities for 13 years. Iran further agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor and verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement. In return, the US, the European Union and United Nations Security Council would lift nuclear-related sanctions. and allow Iran to enrich uranium up to 3.67% for a period of 15yrs.
In 2018, the IAEA undertook a thorough investigation and established that Iran was implementing its nuclear-related commitments according to the JCPOA agreement. Despite this, in April 2018, the US and Israel alleged that Iran had not disclosed a past covert nuclear weapons program to the IAEA, something that was required of them, prior to the JCPOA deal being reached. Trump then announced that the US would be withdrawing from the deal and implementing sanctions against any countries trading with Iran. However, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel then put out a joint statement saying that they continued to support the deal, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Mogherini, also supported the agreement and said that the deal could not be broken by any one country and Russia’s foreign minister confirmed that Iran was abiding by the deal. The EU subsequently decided to respond to this by nullifying U.S. sanctions on countries trading with Iran, however the US still went ahead and implemented its sanctions against Iran.
Despite antagonism from the US and Israel, Iran continued to meet it’s obligations within the framework of the JCPOA agreement, as certified by the IAEA in 2019. However in January 2020, following a US drone strike that targeted and killed the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, Iran announced it was no longer going to observe the limitations set out in the JCPOA agreement. They did, however, chose to keep the door open to the IAEA. Then, in November 2020, Biden won the presidential election and shortly after this, in December 2020, Iranian officials expressed a willingness to rejoin the deal, providing the US agreed to lift sanctions. The IAEA are currently working with Iranian authorities to reinstate monitoring systems in anticipation of the re-establishment of an Iranian nuclear programme.
As other government administrations, including the US, work to open dialogue and stabilise relations with Iran, Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, is pushing a more hardline narrative and calling on world powers to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Given that the Iranian Nuclear Deal was never about, and would never be about, allowing Iran to develop Nuclear weapons, this seems an odd demand to make. Bennett has also been vocal about pushing for a time limit to the negotiations.
At the same time, the Former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Mark Fitzpatrick, has told Al Jazeera, that “the US is willing to lift all the sanctions that would impede implementation of the JCPOA” so it would seem that hardly anyone, outside of Israel is interested in the opinion of the Israeli Prime Minister on the subject. Perhaps this explains why the Times of Israel are now reporting that Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, has said that “Israel could accept new Iran nuclear deal.” According to the Times, “Prime Minister Naftali Bennett assured US President Joe Biden at the White House last month that he would not publicly campaign against Washington’s efforts to coax Iran back to the 2015 accord brokered by former US president Barack Obama”
It seems, however, that there are two competing narratives coming from the Israeli administration at the moment. Perhaps they feel they need to maintain a hardline stance for their domestic audience but need a more considered and accommodating tone for their ‘western allies’. It may be that, now Trump is out the picture, the new US administration are no longer prepared to put the interests of the Israeli administration ahead of their own.
That said, presumably not wishing to look overly accommodating, Gantz has declared that Israel would consider a military strike if negotiations failed – an interesting tactic if the intention was to encourage Iran to be more obliging but you do have to wonder, are they seriously considering military strikes on nuclear facilities? If the objective is to take out Iran’s nuclear capabilities then targeting nuclear facilities and the scientists and staff who man them is precisely what they are threatening to do. According to Gantz, Israel has a “plan C” that involves military action against Iran… “If push comes to shove, we’ll get there… We’re not America, but we have our capabilities. Addressing “world powers” (i.e the US administration), Gantz proclaims that any failure to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon would lead to a nuclear arms race.
It certainly would appear that the new Israeli administration, having found itself politically isolated in it’s opposition to the JCPOA deal and perhaps feeling they need to demonstrate strength to their domestic audience (who will presumably will be comparing them to the previous administration under Netanyahu), is keen to lay the ground apon which it will try to justify military action targeting Iranian nuclear facilities.
Seems to me, it’s getting harder and harder to discern between the language coming out of Israel to that coming out of North Korea these days.
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