Tension between Israel and U.S. over Iran

26 November 2021

While Israel is making all the moves to show that it is prepared to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, the understanding here is that Iran has reached a point where it is capable of assembling a nuclear weapon.

In recent days it has become very clear that there are serious disagreements between Washington and Jerusalem on the Iranian issue.

Israel will maintain its freedom to act in any way it finds right against the Iranian nuclear program even if the US returns to the 2015 Iran deal, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday, in a speech about the Israeli strategy aimed at foiling the Iranian plan.

“We hope the world won’t blink, but even if they do, we don’t plan to blink.”

US officials have warned Israel that targeting Iran's nuclear scientist and enrichment facilities are "counterproductive" and are only encouraging Tehran to speed up its nuclear program, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

In response, Israeli sources said that the U.S still "does not read the map" and that does not leave Israel any choice but to act alone.

This understanding among Israeli experts, makes the possible resumption of the talks between Washington and Teheran, pointless. "The Iranians used the time from the American withdrawal from the agreement, and made big strides towards becoming a country with military nuclear capability" one Israel defense sources said.

In August, both Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid briefed ambassadors from the member states that sit on the UN Security Council and told them that Iran is only “around 10 weeks away from acquiring weapons grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon.”

Since then, according to Israeli sources, Iran has stepped up its actions related to building a nuclear device.

In late November, the Iranians announced that they are ready to resume the negotiations with the U.S.

On the face of it, the announcement looks like an unconditional return, contrary to the position previously expressed by Iran, which demanded an easing of the sanctions imposed on them before any talks could take place. According to Maj. General (Ret.) Yaakov Amidror, the Iranian concession is an apparent American success. Still, it is unclear whether this indeed will be the case since Iranian stubbornness in the negotiations could drag talks out again, and things could end back at square one.

In a paper published by the Jerusalem institute for strategy and security, Amidror says that Iran now openly threatens that the talks will fail unless the US offers guarantees that would bind future administrations’ behavior. However, any such attempt to enshrine the agreement as a formal treaty would require ratification by the Senate, and that the necessary two-thirds majority is nowhere in sight.

"The Iranian tactic to delay the return to talks was possibly designed to make the Americans so enthusiastic about the mere resumption of negotiations that they would agree to the Iranian demand and ease the sanctions for the duration of the talks."

Amidror who was the head of the research department of the IDF's intelligence and then national security advisor, believes that Iran is returning to the talks because the present Iranian leadership has a clear interest in returning to the 2015 agreement because it is a good agreement for the Iranians who seek to develop nuclear weapons. The Iranians understood that the nuclear deal was good for them, and now even more so, in light of the rapid progress in their enrichment program.

"Moreover, they delayed the resumption of talks because they realized that a military option did not exist, neither in the current administration nor the previous one. The absence of a military option was the main weakness the Iranians sensed when the previous US administration withdrew from the nuclear deal."

Other Israeli sources agree that the Israeli declaration to launch a major military operation against Iran to stop its nuclear program is not real under the current circumstances, and suggest that the U.S and European countries do not understand the "big hoax" that Teheran is using to win more time until they achieve a military nuclear capability.

Arie Egozi is a defence journalist based in Israel.