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As of today, a new nuclear deal with Iran, from which Washington withdrew in 2018 on President Donald Trump’s decision, appears imminent. Israel opposes it. It claims it is dangerous, and moderate Arab states concur.
Are there differences compared to 2015? Islamic nuclear program would be limited in exchange for lifting sanctions. It seems that the U.S. and the other powers are on the way back to 2015. Why is it perceived badly in Israel? What are the “open cases” in question, and how will it be implemented if signed?
According to Maj. Gen. (R) Amos Yadlin, since 2015 major changes occurred in the strategic balance. There are advanced centrifuges that Iran has developed. The same ones shorten the breakout time from one year in the previous agreement to six months today. The Iranians rejected the American demand to destroy the new centrifuges, but agreed to isolate them in a redoubt.
Is this deal bad for Israel and its stability? Is there unanimity in the defense establishment and the political establishment? There is no doubt that it is not good. The debate is over which is worse: the settlement or maintaining the status quo. There are differences of opinion on the issue.
The head of military intelligence, Major General Aharon Haleiwa, believes that a settlement is less bad than the current situation. Dedi Barnea, head of the Mossad, estimated, however, that “the nuclear deal is a total strategic disaster and promised.” “We are still acting, Israel is not part of this,” he concluded.
For Yadlin, both alternatives are problematic. However, the key is to prepare for the day after, for a possible nuclear Iran, and this operational plan must be carried out together with Washington. “The Americans are not doing everything they can to achieve a longer and stronger agreement. The plan must address six issues: what to do if, in the end, Iran does not return to the agreement; how to reach a settlement without expiration; what is the red line that Iran must not cross; what to do, and who will act if it crosses this line; how to strengthen Israel in the face of risks; and how to act against Persian terrorism in the world.” All these issues “must be unified and this is preferable to protesting; we must know how to minimize the damage,” Yadlin said.
Too many weaknesses
The agreement is negative in serious respects. One weak point is the expiration date, known as “sunset.” At that point, Tehran will have legitimacy for an open nuclear program, and its distance to a bomb will be very short. The decision on breakout will be in the hands of the ayatollahs. The short time will make it impossible to stop them. The restrictions on Iran would expire gradually between 2026 and 2031.
The second weak point is an oversight. The Islamic dictatorship can hide its activities. The arrangement will give the country billions, which it will certainly not allocate to development, despite its catastrophic social situation.
The international community hopes to see Iran move back from where it is today, a “nuclear threshold” state. The original agreement set them back a year. Today, it would be only six months because of the new centrifuges.
In the eyes of some countries, the deal averts an international crisis for years to come. The fact that, according to the agreement, Iran will eliminate the uranium enriched in the last three years (about 4 tons, some at 60%), moves it somewhat away from the threshold and frees the international community from the need to act against Tehran.
The agreement would leave Tehran with 350 kilograms of enriched uranium, an amount that is not enough for a single bomb, and prevents it from enriching beyond 3.76%. The international community wants to buy time, and the American goal is to “put Iran back in the box.” They see Russia, China, and Korea as a major threat, and, therefore, want to return the Persians to a state where in the short term they will not be able to build a bomb.
Comparing the agreement scenario between 2015 and 2018, it is clear that the Iranians have come a long way and have not collapsed as expected. However, it is unfortunate to see the Biden administration, which promised a “longer and stronger” deal, come to a “weaker, more problematic and shorter” one at the end.
Israel tries in the final minutes to persuade Joe Biden not to give up. This is a tough task given his government’s lack of energy. Not being part of the agreement, Jerusalem reserves the right to act. And, as in the past, it may well have to.
Eduardo Zalovich, Uruguayan-Israeli, is a history professor and journalist. He has written for several media, such as La Vanguardia, El Confidencial, Vozpopuli, Búsqueda and Correo de los Viernes. Zalovich analyzes, from the Middle East, the reality of the region and international politics. // Eduardo Zalovich, uruguayo-israelí, es profesor de Historia y periodista. Ha escrito para varios medios, como La Vanguardia, El Confidencial, Vozpopuli, Búsqueda y Correo de los Viernes. Analiza, desde el Medio Oriente, la realidad de la zona y la política internacional.