Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has urged world powers to take a tough stance against Iran in negotiations aimed at reviving an international nuclear deal.
Bennett made the remarks Sunday when his top defense and intelligence officials went to Washington to discuss the flashy talk.
Israel watched with is coming as world powers sit with Iran in Vienna in hopes of restoring the shattered 2015 agreement. Last week, Iran hit a hard line when talks resumed, suggesting that everything discussed in previous rounds of diplomacy could be renegotiated.
Continued Iranian progress in its atomic program, the game further increased.
“I call on every country negotiating with Iran in Vienna to follow a strong line and make it clear to Iran that they cannot enrich uranium and negotiate at the same time,” Bennett told his cabinet on Sunday.
“Iran must start paying a price for its transgressions.”
The original agreement, led by then-President Barack Obama, provided Iran with much-needed relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its core activities. But then-President Donald Trump, with strong encouragement from Israel, withdrew from the agreement in 2018, causing it to unravel.
Last week’s talks in Vienna resumed after a break of more than five months and were the first in which Iran’s new hardline government participated.
European and US negotiators expressed disappointment with Iran’s views and questioned whether the talks would succeed.
Israel has long opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, known as the JCPOA, saying it has not gone far enough to stop the country’s nuclear program and does not address what it considers hostile Iranian military activity across the region.
Prominent voices in Israel now indicate that the US withdrawal, especially without a contingency plan for Iran’s ever-evolving nuclear plan, was a mistake.
But Israel’s new government has maintained a similar position to that of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rejecting a return to the original agreement and calling for diplomacy accompanied by military pressure on Iran.
‘Maximum pressure’ sanctions
Following the collapse of the agreement, Iran intensified its nuclear activities. Iran now enriches small amounts of uranium to 60 percent purity – a short step from 90 percent arms levels. Iran also rotates advanced centrifuges banned by the agreement, and its uranium supply now exceeds the agreement’s limits.
For now, Iran has shown no signs of retreating. His chief negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani, at the weekend suggested that Iran plan to give a third list of demands to its counterparts. This will include proposed repairs after two pages of claims last week.
“Any sanctions are in conflict and not in accordance with the [deal] must be removed immediately, ”Bagheri Kani told Al Jazeera. “All sanctions imposed or reinstated under the so-called maximum pressure campaign of the United States must be removed immediately.”
While Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi is pushing for sanctions to be lifted, there was a feeling that his negotiators were now waging their own maximum pressure campaign.
Last week, the UN’s watchdog confirmed that Iran had started uranium enriched to 20 percent purity at its underground facility at Fordow, as site that prohibited the transaction from carrying out any enrichment.
Also over the weekend, Iran said this a surface-to-air missile defense system tested near its Natanz nuclear facility. Late Saturday, people living nearby saw a light in the air and heard a loud explosion.
“Any threat from the enemies will be met with a decisive and firm response,” said Lieutenant Commander Ali Moazeni.
President Joe Biden said the United States was prepared to renegotiate the agreement, although the US was not a direct participant in the latest round of talks due to Washington’s withdrawal. Instead, US negotiators were in a nearby location and informed by the other participants – including three European powers, China and Russia.
Although Israel was also not a party to the negotiations, it made a point of maintaining lines of communication with its American and European allies during the talks, which resume this week.
Israeli espionage chief David Barnea went to Washington late Saturday for a previously unannounced trip and Defense Secretary Benny Gantz will leave Wednesday for meetings with his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was in London and Paris last week to discuss the talks with Israel’s European allies.
Bennett said Israel uses the time between rounds to persuade the Americans to use “another toolkit” against Iran’s nuclear program, without expanding.
Barnea, Mossad chief, is expected to provide US officials with “updated intelligence on Tehran’s efforts” over its nuclear activities, the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported.
Barnea will convey Israel’s messages to intensify sanctions against Iran and put a real military threat against Tehran on the table, the daily said. He will also inform Washington that Israel will not be bound by any nuclear deal with Tehran and will continue its efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear activity.
It is widely believed that Israel and the US carried out covert operations against Iranian nuclear personnel and infrastructure in an attempt to sabotage the program.
The current Israeli government has objected to a return to the 2015 agreement, and instead insists on an agreement that addresses other Iranian military behavior, including its missile program and support for armed groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Israel also supported a “credible” military threat against Iran as leverage.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said negotiators expected Iran to “show seriousness” during the talks. He said even Russia and China, key trade outlets for Iran that have traditionally taken a softer line in their relations with the country, left the talks worrying last week about the prospect of an agreement.
“Every day that passes is a day where we come closer to concluding that they do not have a return to the JCPOA in mind any time soon,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reporters across the US too light. assessment.
He said Iran could use the talks as a cover to continue building the nuclear program, which could then use it as leverage.
European negotiators also expressed frustration with the Iranians. Senior diplomats from Germany, the United Kingdom and France said Iran had “accelerated its nuclear program” and “returned to diplomatic progress”.
“It is unclear how these new gaps can be closed in a realistic time frame based on Iranian concepts,” they said.
Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful. However, U.S. intelligence agencies and international inspectors said Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program until 2003. Non-proliferation experts feared that any brink could drive Iran to even more extreme measures to force the West to lift sanctions.