image Photo: Flash90, Reuters

Israel relieved over Iran nuclear deal delay

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid has publicly welcomed reassurance from the West that a deal to restore the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will not be signed.

By Erin Viner

Jerusalem views lifting of sanctions on the Islamic Republic an existential threat, and has  indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran in Vienna to salvage the pact.

“Following the Americans, yesterday the E3 countries announced that a nuclear agreement with Iran will not be signed in the near future,” remarked Prime Minister Lapid at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday.”

He also commented that the decision means that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation is “not about to be closed” into the source and use of uranium traces detected at formerly clandestine sites in the Islamic Republic.

“I thank France, the United Kingdom and Germany (known as the E3 nations) for their strong position on this matter,” said the Israeli leader, who is currently on a state visit to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “The goal of this visit is coordinating positions on the nuclear issue, and finalizing the details of the strategic, economic, and security cooperation document we are going to sign,” said Lapid.

Saying that Israel has conducted a “discreet and intensive dialogue” while simultaneously providing the E3 with “up-to-date intelligence information about Iranian activity at nuclear sites,” Lapid stressed that “together with Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Israel is conducting a successful diplomatic campaign to stop the nuclear agreement and prevent the lifting of sanctions on Iran.” Underscoring that while such a mission “is not yet over” and “there is still a long way to go,” however, he said “there are encouraging signs.”

Prime Minister Lapid went on to state that the battle to “prevent Iran from establishing terrorist bases throughout the Middle East and especially in Syria is ongoing. “Israel will not allow Syria to be used as an axis for the transfer of weapons to terrorist organizations and will not accept the establishment of Iranian bases or militia bases on our northern border,” he reiterated.

The Director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency David Barnea just returned from a round of meetings in the United States by last week. American officials with whom he met include his counterparts at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US National Security Advisor, Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior leaders at the State Department.

After presentation of sensitive intelligence materials and emphasizing that Jerusalem will not stand idly by while Tehran continues to deceive the world, the Mossad Director received Washington’s reassurance to Israel’s security and that its arch-enemy will not be permitted to develop nuclear weapons.  The Americans also pledged to act in full cooperation with the State of Israel with regard to regional issues in the Middle East.

The latest developments follow the 8 August submission to Iran by the European Union (EU) of a “final” draft text aimed at salvaging the 2015 pact from which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 and re-imposed harsh sanctions, after which Iran openly breached limits of the deal including escalated uranium enrichment. The JCPOA had enabled the flow of billions of dollars into Iran’s economy in exchange for agreement to curb  advanced centrifuge production until 2023 and nuclear development until 2030.

Last Monday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that it would not compromise on its precondition that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cease all investigation into nuclear material uncovered at undeclared locations in the Islamic Republic. The Vienna Talks official coordinator, High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell  reacted by saying Iran’s refusal to accept the “most balanced text” possible dimmed hopes for any imminent revival of the JCPOA.

Amid Israeli reports that US President Joe Biden  indicated to Israeli Prime Minister Lapid that a nuclear deal with Iran is currently been shelved, State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel stated that, “as we’ve said before – late last week – Iran’s response did not put us in a position to close the deal. We continue to work through that process. We are reviewing Iran’s response, and we hope to have an update soon.”

After Spokesperson Patel nevertheless stressed that while the White House continues “to believe and affirm that a mutual return to compliance of the JCPOA ”is worthy of pursuit, that “President Biden and this administration are not going to re-enter a deal that is not in the national security interest of the United States.” Saying that it is “unfortunate that Iran’s step took us backwards,” he added that the US is “continuing to study” Iran’s negative response to presented to the EU proposal while closely working with “our allies and partners,” particularly the E3.

Last week, the IAEA raised alarm concerns over Iranian nuclear advancements by documenting Iran has increased its arsenal of near weapons-grade 60% enriched uranium necessary to produce nuclear weapons. While a fissile purity of 90% is necessary to produce a nuclear bomb, the gap is not considered difficult to bridge.

The JCPOA curbed the purity to which Iran was allowed to enrich uranium at 3.67% – well below the 20% it achieved prior to the international pact.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog also reported that the Islamic Republic has still failed to provide credible answers on the origin of uranium particles found at its undeclared Toorkooz-abad, Teheran & Marivan sites.

, stressing that its arsenal of 60% enriched uranium minimized ‘breakout time’ for the production of nuclear weapons to just 3 weeks.. The IAEA Board of Governors is slated to convene this week to discuss this and additional urgent matters.

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

Israel regards the prospect of Iran developing atomic weapons as a threat to its existence. Leaders of the Jewish State maintain that unilateral action could be undertaken to prevent Iran from developing the bombs should the international community fail to do so.

Iran, which has long denied wanting to develop a nuclear weapon, has warned of a “crushing” response to any Israeli attack.