While the president-elect wants a nuclear deal with Iran, Israel and regional neighbors say it has to be much tougher than the original one.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
A source close to the Biden transition team said that Israel will be consulted before any strategy is formulated regarding a nuclear deal with Iran, Israel Hayom reported Friday.
Channel 12 also reported Saturday that the incoming administration has already begun unofficial talks with Iran and has kept Israel in the loop regarding those discussions.
The president-elect, who comes into office on Wednesday, is eager to come to an arrangement that will prevent the Islamic Republic from manufacturing nuclear weapons. The question is whether he would acquiesce to Iran’s demand to return to the original 2015 agreement, which has built-in clauses removing most of the restrictions on uranium enrichment by 2030.
Israel and its new Sunni allies strongly object to a mere reinstatement of the original deal, seeing it as an existential danger to their countries. The UAE and Bahrain, which normalized relations with the Jewish state in September, and Iran’s chief nemesis, Saudi Arabia, “are on the same page…when it comes to Iran,” said Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer at a discussion convened by The Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.
At the same roundtable, UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba said, “I think one of the things we should seriously consider doing is look at a bigger and better JCPOA 2.0, one that addresses the shortcomings of JCPOA 1.0.”
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally called, does not deal with Iran’s ballistic missile program, its support for terrorism, or its military meddling in places such as Syria and Yemen. These are issues that Biden has said he wants to include in the renewed discussions, but Iran strongly objects to anything but a focus on the nuclear issue.
Alluding to the crippling economic sanctions the Trump administration slapped onto Iran after walking away from the deal in 2018, Otaiba said that the U.S. has “a lot of leverage” that it should use to its advantage. Iran, meanwhile, is demanding that the sanctions be lifted even before agreeing to return to any deal.
Possibly upping the ante, Iran announced on Wednesday that it was starting research on producing uranium metal. This is something “Iran has no credible civilian use for,” said the three European signees on the JCPOA – France, Germany and the UK – on Saturday.
The move comes barely two weeks after Iran declared that it has begun enriching its uranium stockpile, which it has increased far beyond the limits allowed it under the JCPOA, to a high of 20%. It is generally recognized that there is no peaceful use for such uranium, which is only a technical step below the enrichment level of 90% needed for a nuclear bomb.