May 13, 2022 | Israel Hayom

Ahead of Biden’s expected visit to Israel

Israel must receive a clear promise that it will preserve its full freedom of action, in all dimensions.
May 13, 2022 | Israel Hayom

Ahead of Biden’s expected visit to Israel

Israel must receive a clear promise that it will preserve its full freedom of action, in all dimensions.

US President Biden recently announced a planned visit to Jerusalem, probably at the end of June.

The important visit is planned for many US internal reasons, but regardless of Biden’s interests, which of course should be considered, Israel must prepare itself for the visit and promote its own objectives. This time they should not be centered on extra budgets or capabilities.

Israeli National Security Adviser Dr. Eyal Hulata recently visited Washington and met with his counterpart, with the expected visit on the agenda. The discussions centered mainly on Iran and the nuclear deal debate, alongside the security situation in the region, Terror, Jerusalem, Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon, and possible cooperation areas between Israel and the US. Russia and China were probably also part of the discussion.

Negotiations with Iran on a return to the nuclear deal are currently in a kind of limbo (cessation/freeze), without a set timetable to continue, but the team leaders, especially the American team led by Rob Malley, and the European Union team, Led by Minister Borel, are looking for some crazy “creative ways to square the circle.”

The Russian representative, Mikhail Ulyanov, was interviewed a few days before the expected signing and bragged a few weeks ago that the Iranians were about to get a much better agreement than they wished for in their most optimistic dreams, led by him, with Chinese help. Ironically, he had to follow orders from Moscow and put forward a Russian demand for the exclusion of economic sanctions imposed on them because of the invasion of Ukraine, from trade with the Iranian market. While that demand has since been resolved, it has led to the cessation of talks, at the time.

But Russia was not alone. Causing, and still doomed, the inability to sign the agreement, is the Iranians’ demand to remove the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) from the list of foreign terrorist organizations, after all of their other extortionate demands were met in the affirmative.

While contacts are officially halted, all parties still want a deal and there are big concerns in Israel and the Gulf that a “creative way to square the circle” will eventually be found. Minister Borel just flew to Teheran to try finding such a solution, after declaring his talks with state secretary Blinken came to a dead-end.

Whether an agreement is signed by the time Biden visits Israel or not, there is no doubt the Iranian nuclear issue will take a central place in the talks, alongside Iran’s aggressive behavior and their terror support in the region and around the world. Russia, China, the peach process and other issues will probably come up, but this time Israel should insist to concentrate on the Iranian problem.

It is important to present the shortcomings and dangers of the agreement that has been formulated and was very close to being signed and to propose some measures that Israel will be required to take if the agreement is signed, or if it is not signed (hopefully, together with the US and other partners).

The agreement that was formulated, is based on the bad 2015 agreement but includes additional concessions. It is not considering the time elapsed from 2015 and the short time remaining to finalize the expiry of all restrictions on Iran. The agreement does not include a way to verify the new findings, both from the nuclear archive the Mossad brought in 2018 and from IAEA’s findings on Iranian NPT violations, which were discovered at several sites.

There are no doubts that signing an agreement will lead Iran to a status of a nuclear thresh-hold country, and then to the bomb in the coming years, causing a change in the world global power balance and a broad nuclear race in the Middle East.

The agreement does not include any tools and leverage that will force the Iranians to negotiate a “longer and stronger” agreement, as promised by Biden, and mistakenly spread out, as the next step, by supporters of a the return to the agreement.

The restrictions on the program will expire according to the original timetable, so by 2025 the powers will lose the Snap-Back mechanism that allows all sanctions to be reinforced, and very short after all other restrictions will expire, while the Iranians, will get immediately hundreds of billions of dollars.

The agreement does not address the supervision activities related to the development of the weapons system, beyond the very narrow section T in the original agreement. Apparently, the 2015 secret agreement between the Russians, Iranians, and Americans, not to enforce this chapter, which was added to the agreement only because the pressure from the Israeli expert’s team, remains in effect. It can be assumed that the new agreement includes more side documents and confidential agreements.

The future of the IAEA’s open investigations is uncertain. Iran still needs to answer the open questions by June, prior to the BOG meeting in Vienna, so it is clear the Iranians have every interest in dragging the current situation at least until June, if they do not intend to sign an agreement, to withhold their threatening cards.

It looks like Biden and his team would be more comfortable continuing with the current situation until November to get through the mid-term elections. Signing an agreement now, certainly if t will include a delisting, in any way, of the Revolutionary Guards from the foreign terrorist organizations list, would provoke strong objections in US on both sides of the political map.

An in-depth examination of the alternatives presents two main paths, and the right choice looks very clear.

Under a bad agreement, with or without removing the Revolutionary Guards from the FTO list, the Iranians will soon reach industrial enrichment capacity, in parallel with the capability to sneak for a bomb, based on advanced centrifuges and transfer a small portion of the huge amount of legitimate enriched uranium, and to accumulate enough bomb-grade enriched Uranium, and then the bomb, under the intel radar.

Albeit it will be in a relatively slow pace, they will be in a much stronger position, carried on a wave of a country that upheld the agreements it signed.

On the other hand, without an agreement, Iran will try to reach the nuclear threshold status and the bomb, probably much faster, but they will do it from a position of weakness and without legitimacy.

Israel will have then have the legitimacy, relevancy, urgency and the appropriate targets to cause painful and critical harm to the Iranian program and infrastructure, for many years.

Comparing the alternatives of not signing an agreement because of urgency + legitimacy + relevancy, against the alternative of signing and “buying time” to build more capabilities, which might come too late, if the Iranian will progress beyond the point of no return, it is clear what is the right way.

During Biden’s visit, Israel must receive a clear promise that Israel will preserve its full freedom of action, in all dimensions, alongside increasing the cooperation between the countries (if no agreement is signed).

Israel should build a full-scale legitimacy campaign to weaken Iran in all possible dimensions – economically, politically, militarily, cyber, kinetic tools, soft and legal tools, perception-changing tools, and more. For this purpose, it is necessary to invest appropriate budgets and manpower.

Iran’s leaders must understand that the era in which the “head of the octopus” remains immune while he invokes his proxies to attack and destabilize the region, is gone.

It is essential to build, alongside the detailed operational plans, a strategic communication plan that will convey Iranian behavior and the dangers of a nuclear Iran, emphasizing the threats to every city in Europe and US when Iran completes the development of its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) equipping them with nuclear warheads.

The US was about to sign a shameful and dangerous “surrender agreement”, and apparently is still willing to do so, under certain conditions. Iran, entrenched in its unreasonable demands and probably putting one extra demand over the edge, gave US a ladder and opportunity to backoff and build a joint plan with Israel that would force Iran to stop progressing in its program and move to a “longer and stronger” agreement that would block its path to nuclear weapons for many years.

To achieve this, the US cannot surrender to crazy Iranian demands, and return to the maximum pressure scheme, alongside credible military threat to the regime and to its survival, to the lives of the leaders and to the Iranian economy. If the serious threat does not affect the Iranian behavior, we all must be seriously prepared to activate the threats, hopefully using a broad international coalition.

Brig. Gen. (Res.) Professor Jacob Nagel is a former national security adviser to the prime minister and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy. 

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