Israel says Iran nuclear deal likely to fall through, chances are ‘low to ‘nil’

Diplomatic officials told Israel Hayom that Iran’s new conditions went a step too far.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel now believes that the signing of a new nuclear deal with Iran is unlikely, officials told Israel Hayom in an exclusive report Tuesday.

Two political sources told the Hebrew daily that although there could be a surprising turnaround, “the possibility that the parties will sign an agreement in the foreseeable future is receding at an exponential rate,” as one of them put it.

The downgrading of the chances of a deal from “almost certain,” with a draft agreement already written, to “low and even nil,” is a result of extra conditions the Iranians suddenly announced that have nothing to do with the nuclear issue per se, they say.

Among the most prominent of Iran’s sudden requirements was the removal of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from the American list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTO). Being on this blacklist makes it much harder for the powerful Iranian force to fund its malign activities.

While the Biden administration appeared to hesitate and consider acquiescence due to the president’s overwhelming desire to keep his campaign promise to return to the 2015 deal, U.S. officials have also indicated they would not agree to the demand.

Voices ranging from regional allies to members of his own party in Congress have made their strong opposition publicly known as well.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who have been largely silent throughout much of the Vienna nuclear talks, spoke out loudly against the ban reversal.

In a historic moment in late March, they invited the foreign ministers of Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE and Morocco to the Negev for a summit with U.S .Secretary of State Antony Blinken to express, among other things, their united opposition to the American approach to the Islamic Republic.

Israel also urged that internal pressure be put on the White House. In one example, Lapid told a mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in February, “Everyone in their right mind should go to the Biden administration and say, ‘This is wrong. Don’t do this.’”

High-ranking Democrats, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez, criticized the idea earlier this month, along with a group of Democrats from the House of Representatives who sent a letter of protest to the White House. This was in addition to unsurprising, strong pushback from the Republican side of the aisle.

Forty-five American generals signed onto on a petition by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) against any delistment. The group wrote that there was no legal basis for lifting its terrorist designation, since it has documented that the IRGC and its proxies’ “malign activities have nearly doubled” since Biden took office.

Moreover, “Iran would take this as tacit permission to escalate the IRGC’s and its proxies’ aggression throughout the Middle East … without fear of U.S. retaliation or economic repercussions.”

Israel Hayom also reported on quiet contacts between the Iranians and Americans to try to solve the issue, which were unsuccessful, and the Iranians raised new demands.

One suggestion had been to keep the IRGC’s Quds Force on the FTO list while removing the parent organization. The Quds Force is the IRGC’s branch responsible for extraterritorial operations, directing and funding the terror activities of proxy organizations like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen.

Israeli National Security Adviser Dr. Eyal Haluta left this week for discussions in Washington, and a senior official confirmed to the outlet that the purpose of the trip is to coordinate preparations between the allies in case the nuclear deal falls through.