Israel concerned US may agree to ‘less for less’ nuclear deal with Iran

Israeli officials are worried the Biden administration may broker a bargain deal with a belligerent Tehran, further emboldening the Iranian regime. 

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

Israeli officials are concerned Washington could hand Tehran a ‘less for less’ bargain deal when negotiations on the new nuclear deal resume next week, emboldening Iran to pursue a breakout nuclear strategy.

The concern has arisen as talks on reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran, are due to resume next week. Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the JCPOA during his presidency, with Iran also exiting the deal shortly thereafter, some three years ago. President Biden had hoped to revive the deal during his first year, using it as a platform to build something “longer and stronger” than the original deal.

Although talks to revive the deal seemed to be going well in the first half of the year, Tehran took the upper hand following a pause in talks, originally put in place to allow the Iranians to hold an election in July, dragging their feet on returning to the negotiating table.

Israel and the U.S. have diverged on how to approach the problem, with Israel preferring a hard line, while the Biden Administration wants to rely on diplomacy.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to the Wall Street Journal, one Israeli official said “Israel is very concerned that the U.S. is setting the stage for what they call a ‘less for less’ agreement. Such an agreement would be detrimental and would only benefit the Iranian regime.”

An Israeli briefing paper on the Biden Administration’s approach to the negotiations earlier this month outlined a scenario in which a hugely pared down deal could go ahead with just two components in place: immediate cessation of uranium enrichment by Iran in exchange for the removal of international sanctions currently in place.

But the Israeli official highlighted Jerusalem’s unease with such a scenario.

“Such an agreement will convince the Iranian public and countries in the region that nuclear blackmail works,” the official said. “It looks like the U.S. might be giving Iran a bargain deal.”

In a measure of how emboldened Tehran has become, Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran’s newly appointed chief nuclear negotiator and a deputy foreign minister has stopped referring to the negotiations as nuclear talks at all. In Paris earlier this month, he said “We have no such thing as nuclear negotiations.” Instead he said the talks were “negotiations to remove unlawful and inhuman sanctions.”

An outline deal would also grant Tehran leave to hold on to the nuclear enrichment infrastructure it already has in place, and the 25kg of uranium it has already enriched to 60% in contravention of previous agreements.

Experts have expressed concern that Tehran is pursuing a breakout strategy, putting in place everything required to build a nuclear warhead in very short order, but holding off from the final assembly of the warhead for now.

“Throughout the last two years, we’ve seen a clear spike in Iran’s regional aggression,” a senior Israeli security officer said. “Fewer restrictions will result in more aggression and more regional upheaval fueled by the more money they will have obtained by sanctions relief. This will pose a danger to the security of the state of Israel and the stability of the Middle East.”