‘Turned diplomacy into a religion’: Israel officials said to lash Biden on Iran deal

Sources quoted saying looming accord doesn’t address advances Tehran has made since 2015, so ‘agreement the US will sign with Tehran is meaningless’

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As reports swirl of an imminent new Iran nuclear deal, Israeli officials on Sunday lashed out at Washington, according to a TV report.

“The Biden administration has turned diplomacy into a religion, and the agreement the US will sign with Tehran is meaningless,” officials quoted by Channel 13 news said.

Israel opposed the original agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, when it was signed in 2015, with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu arguing that it actually paved the path to an Iranian nuclear arsenal. The Netanyahu government then backed former president Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the deal in 2018 and initiate a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, which led Tehran to ramp up nuclear work in violation of the JCPOA.

US President Joe Biden is now seeking to revive the accord, conditioning doing so on Iran returning to compliance.

According to the officials, while the emerging new agreement deals with issues that were relevant in 2015, it does not address Iran’s significant ramping up of its uranium production.

Referring to a leaked draft of the accord, they pointed to several other “problematic” clauses, such as Iran not being obligated to destroy its advanced centrifuges; Tehran having the right to determine whether the other partners have breached the agreement, essentially giving it a way to withdraw from the accord; and the 2015 deal’s 2030 expiration date remaining in place.

A general view of Palais Coburg, the site of a meeting where closed-door nuclear talks with Iran take place in Vienna, Austria, on February 8, 2022. (Lisa Leutner/AP)

The report said said that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his associates understand that they have no way left of influencing talks or stopping the proposed accord from being voted on in Congress. Israel has decided to not confront the US directly as it did following the 2015 deal, understanding that the strategy did not help at the time.

According to Channel 13, Israel’s effort will focus on retaining freedom of action against Iran’s weaponization and missile development, which are not covered by the deal.

Bennett warned Sunday that the emerging Iran deal will “likely create a more violent, more volatile Middle East.”

He stressed that it is Israelis and those who live in the Middle East who will bear the brunt of the consequences of the deal under discussion in Vienna, but added that there is “no point in playing the blame game.”

A cleric walks past Zolfaghar, top, and Dezful missiles displayed by the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, at Imam Khomeini grand mosque, in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The premier made similar remarks earlier in the day at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. He said Israel was making preparations for the day after the agreement emerging from the Vienna nuclear talks, which he said appears to be “shorter and weaker” than the previous deal and would allow Tehran to build “stadiums of advanced centrifuges” when it lapses.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with US Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday and told her any future nuclear deal with Iran must include consistent enforcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The United States said last Thursday that “substantial progress” during negotiations in Vienna to save the Iran nuclear deal had been made, deeming an agreement possible within days if Iran “shows seriousness” on the matter.

The Vienna talks involve Iran as well as Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia directly, and the United States indirectly.

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