Gantz says world needs a ‘Plan B’ to the faltering Iran nuclear deal

At briefing to some 60 foreign diplomats, defense minister says Iranian leadership approved deadly attack on Israeli-linked oil tanker, and drone was launched from Iran’s territory

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to foreign diplomats at a briefing, August 25, 2021. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to foreign diplomats at a briefing, August 25, 2021. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday said the international community must find a “Plan B” to stop Iran from advancing toward a nuclear weapon, as the prospects of a return to a 2015 deal fade.

“Iran is only two months away from acquiring the materials necessary for a nuclear weapon,” Gantz warned some 60 foreign ambassadors and envoys at a briefing.

According to Israeli assessments, it would take at least several more months after that for Iran to perform the additional steps necessary to produce a deliverable nuclear bomb, namely constructing an atomic core, installing the device in a ballistic missile and performing tests.

“We do not know if the Iranian regime will be willing to sign an agreement and come back to the negotiation table, and the international community must build a viable ‘Plan B’ in order to stop Iran on its way toward a nuclear weapon,” he said.

The defense minister continued: “All of Iran’s acts of aggression thus far have been conducted without nuclear capabilities. Imagine what will happen if Iran achieves nuclear capabilities?

“Iran has the intention to destroy Israel and is working on developing the means to do so,” he said. “Israel has the means to act and will not hesitate to do so. I do not rule out the possibility that Israel will have to take action in the future in order to prevent a nuclear Iran.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks to foreign diplomats at a briefing, August 25, 2021. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Former United States president Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions that have choked Iran’s oil-dependent economy. Iran has responded by walking back measures it had agreed to abide by, including enriching uranium to unprecedented, near weapons-grade, levels.

Talks kicked off in April in Vienna to find a way to bring the US and Iran back to the deal. But the last round took place on June 20, with no date set for when they would resume. The EU chairs the meetings.

US President Joe Biden, Trump’s successor, has signaled his readiness to return to the nuclear deal and has engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran alongside formal talks with the agreement’s remaining parties, Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia.

However, the ascendance of new Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, as well as Iran’s increasing moves away from the deal, have led to pessimism in the West that a return to the accord is possible.

Israel has long opposed the nuclear deal and Biden’s stated intentions to reenter the treaty. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett landed in the US, in his first state visit overseas since taking office, with the subject of Iran set to top the agenda for his meeting with Biden on Thursday.

Bennett has spoken out against the possibility of a new nuclear accord between Iran and world powers, and says that any agreement must also put the brakes on Iran’s regional aggression.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett boards plane for the US (Courtesy Avi Ohayon/GPO)

In a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office before his departure, Bennett said the top priority in his conversation with Biden would be Iran, “especially the leapfrogging in the past two to three years in the Iranian nuclear program.”

Gantz at the briefing also told the diplomats that the deadly drone attack on the Mercer Street oil tanker last month was launched from Iranian territory.

Suicide drones that hit the Israeli-linked tanker off the coast of Oman killed a Briton and a Romanian national on board.

The G7 — the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — blamed the attack on Iran, which denies the accusation.

A tug boats are moored next to the Israeli-managed tanker MT Mercer Street, off the Fujayrah port in the United Arab Emirates, on August 3, 2021. (Karim Sahib/AFP)

“Our assessment is that the UAV employed in the Mercer Street attack was launched from Iranian territory and approved by Iranian leadership,” Gantz said.

“This demonstrates that Iran is a global challenge,” he said, adding that Tehran disrupts international trade with its maritime attacks.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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