The Israelis are nervous and with good reason. The theocratic regime in Iran has repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel off the map and now it looks like Joe Biden may help them try to achieve that ambition. Biden is edging closer to signing a renewed deal with the Islamic Republic which will do little to curb their race towards developing a nuclear weapon, but by lifting sanctions, will release over $100 billion annually, which the mullahs will use to fund their terrorist proxies across the Middle East. Israel’s Mossad spy chief, David Barnea, will visit Washington in early September to brief the Americans on the perils of reviving the defunct Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal. Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, has stressed that the original JCPOA brokered by Barack Obama in 2015 was “not a good deal” and that any attempt at reviving it would lead to “greater dangers.”
President Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the JCPOA in 2018 claiming it was “the worst deal ever negotiated”. In May 2018, Donald Trump said: “Not only does the deal fail to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it also fails to address the regime’s development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads.Finally, the deal does nothing to constrain Iran’s destabilizing activities, including its support for terrorism. Since the agreement, Iran’s bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen.” The other signatories to the deal involved Germany, France, the UK, Russia, China and the EU, all of whom have sought ways of reviving the zombie agreement, despite Iran’s increasingly aggressive behaviour. Now the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has promised to organise more meetings in Vienna to try to finalise the agreement.
The Israelis are concerned that, according to a memo leaked from the Vienna talks, any revival of the nuclear deal would include removing 150 Iranian financial institutions and 17 banks from the sanctions list, while $7 billion of Iranian assets frozen by South Korea would be immediately released. The Israeli PM Yair Lapid claimed these assets would be funnelled directly towards Iran-backed militant groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. For years the Iranian regime has also backed Bashar al-Assad’s bloody civil war in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the brutal Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq, financing and directing proxy wars across the Middle East. Despite their broken economy, spiralling inflation, and a population reduced to abject poverty, the mullahs have continued to fund their terrorist proxies and to accelerate their nuclear program in open defiance of the West. They have boasted that they have ramped up their nuclear program, purifying uranium to 60% purity, a hair’s breadth from weapon’s grade.
In retaliation for President Trump’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign, the theocratic regime has resorted to gunboat diplomacy in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s strategically most important choke points for the transportation of oil and gas from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean. US naval vessels and commercial oil tankers have been attacked with weaponized drones and limpet mines by the terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). There have also been IRGC terrorist plots and attacks in the West. Earlier in August the US Department of Justice uncovered a plot to murder Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, involving an IRGC officer. Last year an Iranian diplomat – Assadollah Assadi, was jailed for 20 years in Belgium for plotting to bomb a rally of Iranian dissidents near Paris.
But it seems as if such acts of naked aggression and terrorism are not enough to concern Western appeasers.According to the leaked memo, any revived nuclear deal will not even contain a mention of the rampant human rights abuse and escalating number of executions taking place inside the repressive regime. Nor will the JCPOA mention the mullahs’ war mongering in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. There will be no mention of the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, now the subject of a UN special inquiry. Nor will there be any mention of the 1,500 unarmed protesters gunned down by the IRGC, in the nationwide uprising which erupted in every town and city in Iran in November 2019. It seems that the promise of an end to sanctions, so that US and EU businesses can re-open trade with the theocratic regime, is more important than human rights. Yair Lapid is right when he says that the renewed deal and lifting of sanctions would be used to “undermine stability in the Middle East and spread terror around the globe.”
As the Americans and Europeans appear to be edging towards accepting what has been branded in Vienna as ‘the final text’ of a revived deal, Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said: “We are committed to inspections in the framework of the nuclear deal that are linked to nuclear restrictions which we have accepted in the past… Not one word more, not one word less,” clearly indicating that no new clauses will be acceptable to the mullahs. This would also constrain inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from further investigating covert sites where they have detected uranium. Eslami claims the allegations are untrue, based on falsehoods spread by dissidents and by Israel. But Rafael Grossi, the director general of the IAEA, has urged the mullahs to cooperate with his investigations into the nuclear traces found at the three previously undeclared sites. Iran has emphasised it wants the IAEA probe permanently closed before an agreement can be reached to restore the JCPOA.
Previous demands from the mullahs that the Americans should remove the IRGC from their list of foreign terrorist organizations, appear now to have been dropped. Nevertheless, opposition to a renewed deal is growing in Washington, where there are concerns that assets unfrozen by the lifting of sanctions could be used by the mullahs to fund a delivery of sophisticated, weaponized drones, as part of Iran’s growing support for Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said last week that the terms of a possible deal with Iran are worse than the original 2015 accord. He said: “This terrible deal with Iran casts a heavy shadow on our security and our future. The deal enables Iran to get everything and give nothing.”
Struan Stevenson is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CiC). He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).