ISRAEL NEWS: The more we get near the Vienna renewal of the talks to restore Iran’s nuclear agreement with the world powers, the more psychological warfare between the parties escalates. These skirmishes may not be between Tehran or its negotiating partners. They are usually between two countries who won’t be allowed to attend the talks. The United States will have representatives in Vienna, but they won’t participate in direct talks due to Iranian opposition. Israel is the other.
For a few weeks, unidentified high-ranking Israeli officials have been criticizing American policies toward Iran . The Biden administration, it is claimed, is eager to return to the 2015 agreement, almost at any cost. The Americans will be more open to negotiations if Tehran signals their willingness. The United States is gradually reducing its interest and withdrawing its forces from Middle East. It is even resisting direct provocation – a suicide helicopter attack launched in response to a Shi’ite militia attacking the U.S. military bases at Tanf in eastern Syria.
It seems that the Biden administration is now ready to let go of the gloves and broadcast its thoughts via The New York Times. The paper of record initially reported that the drone attack on Syria was an indirect revenge against Israel for its many attacks against Iranian targets in Syria. The Times published Monday a lengthy article in which it rejected most of Israel’s arguments regarding the nuclear talks.
According the article’s lead writer, Times White House national security correspondent David E. Sanger said that the Biden administration had concluded that any new agreement, if it is signed, would not include a return of the terms of the agreement from six years ago. The old agreement is dead. In light of Iran’s deliberate delay policy, President Joe Biden lost his hope of returning to the agreement during his first year in office. The regime in Tehran delayed talks during the period of the presidential elections in Iran, and waited a few more months after the hawkish President Ebrahim Raisi, entered office.
This is the U.S. current position. However, the conclusion that follows it is intriguing. The administration claims that the former president Donald Trump’s policy of maximum pressure has failed. Israel’s sabotage campaign to stop Iran’s nuclear program also failed. Paradoxally, these actions seem to have only helped the Iranians get closer to their goal.
Biden and Bennett meeting at the White House in August. Evan Vucci / AP
According to Sanger and his co-authors in the article, over the past 20 months Israel assassinated the head of the Iranian nuclear project, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and caused significant explosions in four nuclear and missile facilities in Iran, in the hopes of delaying the ability of Iran to build a bomb. According to U.S intelligence officials and international inspectors, the outcome was not what was expected. The Iranians immediately restored operations at the sites, and set up new centrifuges that could enrich uranium faster.
After one of the installations suffered a paralyzing effect in spring, it was re-instated by the end of summer. The program was described by a senior American official as Iran’s version Build Back Better, an ambitious new U.S. infrastructure plan. These briefings seem to be a direct response of briefings from this year’s Middle East, in which a series if mysterious explosions will put the Iranians back a few years from their goal.
Another Mossad chief Yossi Cohen stated Sunday at the Haaretz UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center conference about Israeli national security, that Israel would only consider a future agreement a good one if it included the decommissioning of Fordow and Natanz nuclear facilities. Cohen claims that Iran enriches uranium simply because they can. This must be stopped.
Officials from the U.S., including the Cyber Command of the Defense Department, claim that it is much harder to launch a cyberattack against Iran that would significantly damage its nuclear program. This is similar to what the Stuxnet virus did a decade ago. Haaretz was recently informed by senior Israeli officials that Iran is improving its air defenses and placing their sensitive nuclear facilities as far underground as possible.
According to the Americans, they warned Israel ahead of time that the repeated attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities may be “tactically satisfying,” in the words of Monday’s Times article, but they will prove to be counterproductive. The Times quotes senior Israeli officials who claim that Israel is not willing to stop its sabotage campaign.
Sources in the U.S. administration believe Iran wants to attain the status of a nuclear threshold state. This will allow it to make a bomb quickly if it so chooses. The Institute for Science and International Security’s most recent report confirms this grim conclusion. In the report, published Sunday, the chief researcher of the prestigious U.S. think tank, David Albright, writes that Iran has enough uranium enriched to near-20 and 60 percent to produce sufficient weapon-grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon in as little as three weeks. Albright also notes that the installation of advanced centrifuges is responsible for some of the significant advances.
If Iran wishes to make a nuclear weapon it must still execute its military program. This involves installing the bomb as the nuclear warhead on a missile and installing it in a ballistic launch vehicle. Experts estimate that this could take between one and two years. Albright’s conclusion reveals how far the Iranians have come while Washington’s administrations – first Trump’s, now Biden’s- convinced themselves that they were able to solve the problem.
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