July 21, 2022 | Israel Hayom

Will new nuclear deal render Israel’s capabilities hollow?

Tehran wants to keep up the negotiations facade until such time as the IAEA convenes, but Iran's leaders must be made to understand that the era of impervious immunity is over. When dealing with Hamas in Gaza, the Israeli response to any provocation must be disproportionate.
July 21, 2022 | Israel Hayom

Will new nuclear deal render Israel’s capabilities hollow?

Tehran wants to keep up the negotiations facade until such time as the IAEA convenes, but Iran's leaders must be made to understand that the era of impervious immunity is over. When dealing with Hamas in Gaza, the Israeli response to any provocation must be disproportionate.

Returning to reality after the euphoria that existed during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia, the belligerent announcements by senior Iranian officials and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, and the convening of the Russia-Turkey-Iran conference in Tehran, require a sober assessment of the situation and the construction of a plan to preserve and increase deterrence vis-à-vis Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as the continued communication with the USA to prevent any return to the dreadful nuclear agreement from 2015.

Prior to Biden’s visit, Israel set a number of key goals, some of which were not reached and some of which were partially achieved. Despite this, Israel must continue its actions and efforts, in light of events in the region and events that are expected to occur in the near future.

The most difficult undertaking quest during the visit was to underscore the dangers in reinstating the nuclear agreement, despite the ambitions of the administration headed by Biden and his envoy Robert Malley. As expected, Israel failed. The administration continues with determination, supported by irresponsible voices in Israel, to make every possible mistake in order to reinstate the agreement. Despite the aggressive American rhetoric, the claim that there will be no more concessions and the announcement that the other side can “take it or leave it,” is not really the case.

The visit’s secondary goals, which focused on strengthening technological cooperation between Israel and the US and attempting to advance initial steps of normalization with Saudi Arabia, yielded partial success. Announcements that dealing with the Palestinian issue is not currently appropriate, probably fell on attentive ears, despite US and Saudi declarations.

“The last round of talks between Iran, the US, and the Europeans in Qatar ended in failure and with no progress. The Iranians made new demands and refused to accept the agreement that had been reached in previous rounds. However, the parties did not regard this stage as a failure and are currently initiating ties to coordinate another round between the US and Iran and between the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and their counterparts in Tehran, to once again try to “turn the square into a circle.”

Even though the resulting agreement, entitled the “Putin Agreement”, was not signed, the fact that the dissolute agreement was led by Putin and drafted by his envoy Ulyanov, has not changed. This is happening while Russia continues its aggressive attacks in Ukraine and Iran assists it in fighting and in the economic siege, with advice on how to circumvent sanctions. Despite this, and while Putin arranges a summit meeting with Erdoğan in Iran, the US continues to align with the Russian leadership in its negotiations with Iran.

The summit in Tehran underscored the absurdity of American behavior and posed complex challenges. This bizarre meeting, officially titled a discussion on Syria, probably included more disagreements than agreements, as each side sought a solution to its own interests, despite the public announcements.

Turkey sought a solution to its ambitions in northeastern Syria, the expulsion of the Kurds and the return of Syrian refugees. Iran sought support for returning to the agreement on its terms and circumventing US sanctions. Russia sought Iranian, and possibly Turkish, support with weapons to fight Ukraine, but mostly to “poke a finger in the American eye.”

How can one explain such a meeting only days after Iran sent terrorists to Turkey to attack Israelis and violated its sovereignty? How does this encounter align with the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideological struggle? And with the Shiite / Suni struggle? Apparently, the struggle for personal interests triumphed.

Reinstating the nuclear agreement is a serious mistake and the former and current officials who support it are harming Israel and leaking their opinions to the media. Those in official office have both a right and duty to present their position, but only behind closed doors. When the decision is made by those in charge, the chief of staff, the head of the Mossad and GSS, and the political echelon, they must stop their harmful activities, as is required in a democracy.

The emerging agreement, and the danger that it will worsen if the new Iranian demands are accepted, is based on the bad agreement of 2015, with further concessions. It does not take into account the time that has elapsed and the short time remaining until the expiration of the restrictions. It does not take into account the findings from the nuclear archive and the violations revealed by the IAEA’s supervisory system.

The agreement will allow Iran to achieve a “nuclear threshold state” status and develop a bomb, leading to an extensive race for armament in our region. It does not include the tools and requirements that will force the Iranians to negotiate for a “longer and stronger” agreement, before the expiration date, as Biden promised and continues to do.

At the time of signing the agreement, the Iranians will receive hundreds of billions, enabling them to restore their economy, intensify the development and equipment of nuclear and conventional arms, and increase support for Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthi movement and terrorism.

The “stopwatch” that the parties are activating is based on local interests. Iran has no answers to the open investigations and it is important for them to continue displaying a misrepresentation of talks until the convening of the IAEA Board. They might have no intentions of reaching an agreement until they become a threshold state and secure an agreement on the terms they dictate. Waiving the investigation of the open cases will weaken the status of the IAEA and make it irrelevant.

Americans are probably comfortable with continuing the negotiations, at least until the elections in November.

Those who claim that reinstating the agreement is very bad, but at least this is the better of two evils, in order to buy time that will allow them to better prepare for future action, are wrong and misleading. Without being obligated to answer the operational question, which should not be discussed in public, if Israel needs additional time to prepare, the time that Israel will ostensibly “gain” will come at a high price. Under this agreement, Iran will move closer and reach a situation where the capabilities that will be built will become irrelevant. According to an agreement, even if Iran advances considerably, Israel will incur great difficulties in exercising skills that it allegedly built while “in the gaining stage.”

Without an agreement, Iran will be in a position of weakness and without any legitimate status. Even if they try to dodge this situation, Israel and the US will be legitimately able to painfully damage the program.

Statements made by Iranian officials about their nuclear capabilities emanate weakness and panic. The statements intend mainly to pressure the US to return to the agreement. Iran is at least 18 to 24 months away from having the technological ability to turn a highly-enriched fissile, which it is close to obtaining, into a bomb. This should not cause Israel to sway, in any way possible, in its attempt to stop Iran from developing both a fissile and a weapons system.

Recent threats by Nasrallah and Hamas also indicate weakness and panic. However, Israel cannot ignore Hezbollah provocations and the launch of UAVs toward Israel three times recently, and six times in the last year. In order to maintain a level of deterrence against Lebanon and Iran, Israel must respond and Nasrallah has given it the tools to change the rules of the game in Lebanon and deal, in response to antagonism, with precise arms that were recently developed and manufactured on Lebanese soil, contrary to unwritten understandings.

Facing Hamas in Gaza, Israel’s response to all provocations and launches must be disproportionate, taking advantage of “opportunities” to address strengthening and leaders.

While this can lead to escalation and decline, as the opponents are deterred and do not want to get into a confrontation, one must take a risk, otherwise, deterrence will be irrevocably marred.

In addition, Iranian leaders must be made to understand that the era of impervious immunity is over and only the operational arm will suffer. Prime Minister Netanyahu introduced this important change in 2018 regarding the perception of security and we must continue to implement it.

Israel must prepare for a strategic media campaign that will emphasize (not “explain”, as it is mistakenly called) Iranian behavior and the dangers anticipated from a nuclear Iran, and build legitimacy for increasing the “military campaign between wars.”

Brig. Gen. (Res.) Professor Jacob Nagel, formerly the national security adviser to the prime minister, is a Senior Fellow at FDD and a visiting professor at the Faculty of Aeronautics and Space at the Technion. Mark Dubowitz is the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Mark on Twitter @mdubowitz. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

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