Only last month, the signatories of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal were confident that they were close to signing an agreement that would renew. Israel’s Mossad even hosted a briefing for Israeli diplomatic reporters outlining the specific provisions of the deal, which I recounted here.
But something happened in the interim. The Iranians received the European draft of the deal and responded with their own counter-proposal. Instead of affirming the draft, it renewed disagreements the other member states had thought resolved. As a result, matters are at an impasse. The Iranians are unwilling to compromise and the west refuses to accede to what they view as Iran holding a new agreement hostage to their unacceptable terms.
The failure of a deal is a tragedy of immense proportions. When Trump withdrew from it in 2018, Iran retaliated by gradually escalating its own uranium enrichment program. It now has far more such material enriched at a higher percentage than at any previous time. The 60% purity it’s achieved can fairly easily be refined to the 90% level needed for fueling a bomb. Though Iran has not yet developed the technology necessary to deliver the weapon, it could do so, some experts believe, in as little as two years.
Iran has, so far, chosen not to go on this path. It has held off on this option as a last resort. But maintaining this approach is not a given. If Iran feels endangered or cornered, it would undoubtedly go the route of North Korea and produce such a weapon and delivery system in order to protect it from attack and/or regime change. That includes the possibility, unlikely as it may be, that Israel would launch a direct attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Such an attack would, without doubt, neither deter Iran’s determination nor destroy its infrastructure, to such an extent that it could not do so.
רציתם שינוי? הנה השינוי! 🇮🇱💪 pic.twitter.com/u6b0KBktBU
— צעירי יש עתיד 🇮🇱🟠 (@young_yeshatid) September 11, 2022
Israeli PM Yair Lapid is foolishly crowing about his success is scuttling a renewed agreement. The above tweet from the young wing of his Yesh Atid Party boasts:
You wanted change? Here’s change! The Lapid government’s tremendous achievement: a nuclear agreement between Iran and the “powers” [JCPOA singatories] is off the table!
Lapid also boasted that in his meeting with Pres. Biden, they saw eye to eye on the matter. In fact, an anonymous senior Israeli source declared the deal “dead“:
A senior Israeli official…sa[id] current talks aimed at reviving a 2015 pact were dead after Jerusalem provided proof that Tehran had not been forthright during negotiations.
“There’s not going to be a JCPOA, say the Americans and most Europeans.”
The source even had the chutzpah to brag that Israel had succeeded in isolating and neutralizing Rob Malley, the State Department official directing the talks:
The official indicated that Robert Malley, US President Joe Biden’s envoy to the indirect talks and a frequent target of Israeli criticism, had been shunted to the side.
“This is out of the hands of Malley’s camp by now. The decisive talks that we are doing with the US are no longer in Malley’s hands,” said the source.
Imagine if the US government bragged about neutralizing a senior Israeli official with whom it was displeased? This shows Israel’s outrageous overreach into the sovereign political affairs of any country it wishes to manipulate.
An Israeli source has confirmed to me that the “anonymous source” quoted above is none other than Lapid himself. As the French say: Quel surprise!
This, of course, justly arouses suspicions among Iranians that US and western punitive approaches to it are dominated, if not directed by Israel. This is likely why the State Department deemed it necessary to refute this Israeli triumphalism, claiming that the deal was dead and that Israel had achieved all its objectives in helping kill it. Though the denial sounded more like typical sunny-side wishful thinking, rather than a substantive statement offering convincing evidence the deal was still on track.
Lapid and his Mossad chief have reaffirmed they will continue killing Iranian nuclear scientists and blowing up Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, regardless of whether there is such a deal. Not only is this strategy counter-productive, it will actually motivate Iran to escalate its nuclear program.
Thus, the failure to seal an agreement intended to forestall an Iranian Bomb will, along with Israeli provocation, actually drive the Iranians to develop one. Congratulate Lapid and decades of Israeli provocation for such “success.”
Mossad’s David Barnea’s offered this hypocritical threat against Iran:
“Even if a nuclear deal is signed, it will not give Iran immunity from the Mossad operations,” Barnea said. “We won’t take part in this charade and we don’t close our eyes to the proven truth.”
He added that Iran’s leadership must understand that any direct or indirect attack against Israel or against Israeli citizens will be answered with “a painful retaliation” against those responsible.
Barnea’s characterization here of JCPOA as a charade is mild compared to previous claims that it is based on a “lie.” But what’s even more extraordinary is that while he reserves Israel’s right to invade Iranian sovereignty at will, he treats Iran’s efforts to defend its own interests as a causus belli. If this isn’t the height of hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.
Iran may not have the military resources and know-how to match Israel. But given the technological expertise and innovation of which Iranians’ are capable, they will eventually develop such capabilities. Then Israel will not be as cocksure as it is now.
Even more distressing is that the entire Israeli posture has far more to do with domestic political and elections than with any real Iranian threat. Lapid is constantly watching over his right shoulder at Netanyahu’s Likud, which is waiting to pounce on any security lapse. Lapid must out-Bibi Bibi to show Israelis he cannot be outmaneuvered on the right. If he can show the Israeli people that he succeeded in killing the deal, he will neutralize that point of attack in the run-up to the elections.
Barnea’s threat above brought this thought to mind:
There will come a day (and there always does) when nations which now bestride the earth, will be laid low. Empires like the Assyrians, Babylonians, Mongols, Alexander’s Greece, Rome, Chinese dynasties, the Nazis and British have all risen and fallen over millennia. Some day Israel, though a lesser empire than others, will have that reckoning. Then no one will feel sympathy or mercy precisely because of hubris like this. Recklessly assassinating enemies, conquering territory, stealing land and resources, and mass murdering a captive Palestinian population are but a few examples., A country which shows no mercy deserves none in return.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.