image Photo: Reuters, Flash90

Arch-enemies Iran, Israel harden positions amid Vienna Talks

Iran accuses Israel of trying to “poison” nuclear negotiations as Israeli leaders urge world leaders to tighten restrictions.

By Erin Viner

The “Israeli regime whose existence relies on tension is at it again, trumpeting lies to poison Vienna talks,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh posted on Twitter yesterday, adding that, “All parties in the room now face a test of their independence & political will to carry out the job— irrespective of the fake news designed to destroy prospects for success.”

Tehran’s top diplomat did not specify what Israeli comments nor news reports to which he referred.

Jerusalem has openly called on world leaders not to buckle to Iran’s demands to lift sanctions as part of the revived Vienna Talks, but to instead maintain pressure and increase supervision of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs and Alternate Premier Yair Lapid concluded 3 days of talks in the European capitals of London and Paris on the Iranian nuclear issue, where he held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

“Sanctions must be reinforced and there needs to be a credible military threat because that it is the only thing that will prevent Iran from carrying out its race for a nuclear weapon,” Lapid said in a statement after holding talks with French President Macron.

Minister Lapid’s tour came in parallel with the opening of a 7th round of negotiations between world powers and Iran in Austria to restart the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), resuming this week after a 5-month suspension prompted by the election of hardline President Ebrahim Raisi.

Israel has long opposed the JCPOA as insufficient to prevent the development of nuclear weapons by Iran, which began openly violating atomic curbs after then-US President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact in 2018.

The Ayatollah regime has repeatedly vowed to annihilate the Jewish State. Israel has consistently warned that its arch-enemy will try to secure a windfall in sanctions relief at the talks, without sufficiently rolling back nuclear bomb-making potential through its accelerated enrichment of uranium.

In stunning developments that appear to undercut efforts to bring both Iran and the US back into compliance with the JCPOA, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed yesterday that the Islamic Republic has now begun to produce enriched uranium with more efficient advanced centrifuges at its Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP).

The JCPOA completely forbids any uranium enrichment at the underground FFEP facility, highlighting just how badly the deal has eroded.

Iran has started the process of enriching uranium to up to 20% purity with one cascade, or cluster, of 166 advanced IR-6 machines at Fordow, said the United Nations nuclear watchdog organization. These machines are far more efficient than the first-generation IR-1.

A more comprehensive IAEA report circulated to member states and seen by Reuters said that as a result of Iran’s move the nuclear watchdog planned to step up inspections at the FFEP that houses the centrifuges, but the details still need to be ironed out.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett today discussed the IAEA report in a telephone conversation on Iran’s nuclear advances and the Vienna Talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

In a statement obtained by TV7, Prime Minister Bennett told the Washington’s top diplomat that the Islamic Republic is “carrying out ‘nuclear blackmail; as a negotiation tactic and that this must be met with an immediate cessation of negotiations and by concrete steps taken by the major powers.”

So far, this week’s indirect talks between Iran and the US brokered by Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia have made no visible progress.

Even if the Vienna Talks do yield results, Israeli Prime Minister Bennett declared last week that his nation “is of course not a party” nor “obligated by the deal.”

In related developments, Israeli Defense Minister, Benny Gantz is slated to hold consultations with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Blinken in Washington next week.