Gantz says he supports a ‘broader, stronger and longer’ deal with Iran

Defense minister’s comments come despite reports that Israel believes Tehran has no real intention of returning to compliance with 2015 accord

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks during a ceremony honoring wounded soldiers, in Tel Aviv, November 21, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks during a ceremony honoring wounded soldiers, in Tel Aviv, November 21, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Sunday that he supports a “broader, stronger and longer” nuclear deal with Iran, even as Israel is said to be expecting talks surrounding a return to the 2015 multilateral accord to fall apart.

“I support an agreement that will be broader, stronger and longer — taking Iran back, dismantling its current capabilities and placing effective inspections on its sites and on its weapons production,” Gantz said at a conference on Israeli security affairs, hosted by the Haaretz daily and UCLA.

Last week, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reportedly reiterated Israel’s position to Rob Malley, the US special envoy on Iran, that Tehran is simply trying to buy time with negotiations over its nuclear program until the issue of rejoining the 2015 nuclear deal is no longer relevant.

The foreign minister reportedly told Malley that Iran has no intention of actually returning to the deal, which the US pulled out of in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump.

Since then, a series of escalating incidents have struck the wider Mideast. That includes drone and mine attacks targeting vessels at sea, as well as assaults blamed on Iran and its proxies in Iraq and Syria.

At Sunday’s conference, the defense minister warned that “Iran sees itself as a hegemon, systematically equipping terror armies and exporting its radical ideology, weapons, funds and manpower across the Middle East.”

Illustrative: Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Gen. Hossein Salami, left, and the Guard’s aerospace division commander Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh talk while unveiling a new drone called ‘Gaza,’ in an undisclosed location in Iran, in a photo released on May 22, 2021. (Sepahnews of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, via AP)

“They target economic resources as we saw in the Aramco attack, disrupt global trade as we saw in the Mercer Street attack, harm democratic processes as we saw in the Iraqi elections and dismantle regimes as we see in Lebanon and Syria,” Gantz added.

A number of attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities have been blamed on Israel, and since February, Iran and Israel have been engaged in a “shadow war” in which vessels linked to each country have come under attack in waters around the Gulf.

Israel has said it will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons, and its military has begun drawing up fresh attack plans for a potential strike on Iranian facilities. Last month the government reportedly allocated billions of shekels toward making those plans viable.

Earlier this month, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman and top negotiator in the nuclear talks, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said the Islamic Republic will continue its actions in breach of the nuclear deal until it is assured the US will lift its crippling sanctions in a verifiable manner.

The date of November 29 has been set for restarting talks in Vienna to save the JCPOA after a five-month gap in negotiations that began when Iran elected hardline President Ebrahim Raisi.

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