TV: Israeli embassies told to disinvite top Iran expert who opposes gov’t policy

Foreign Ministry irked by leading analyst Dr. Raz Zimmt’s statements that he does not believe max pressure campaign will cause Tehran to back down, Channel 13 reports

Dr. Raz Zimmt (YouTube screenshot)
Dr. Raz Zimmt (YouTube screenshot)

The Foreign Ministry has asked Israeli embassies in Canada, Russia and Bulgaria to cancel lectures by a top Israeli expert on Iran due to his criticism of Israel’s support for a maximum pressure policy against Tehran, Channel 13 news reported Tuesday.

Dr. Raz Zimmt, who previously served in senior positions in the IDF intelligence branch, was scheduled to visit Ottawa, Moscow and Sofia for lectures at the invitation of the embassies.

But in a message to the Israeli missions Tuesday, Haim Assaraf of the ministry’s Strategic Affairs Division wrote: “Dr. Zimmt has expressed serious criticism of government policy on Iran and particularly the policy of maximum pressure we promote. In his statements Dr. Zimmt does not promote our diplomatic goals but rather serves as a learned and vocal opponent of them.”

“If possible, I ask that you prevent his appearance,” Assaraf wrote, according to the report.

Zimmt’s his positions are not radically out of sync with the government’s on Iran, but that he has said he does not believe a policy of pressure will cause Iran to reverse course on nuclear development, the report said.

In November Zimmt visited Rome at the invitation of the Israeli embassy there and spoke before journalists, local government officials, researchers and students.

Israel’s Ambassador to Italy, Dror Eydar, lauded his appearance and told Kan television his lecture boosted the Israeli position.

The Foreign Ministry and Zimmt gave no official response to the Tuesday report.

Zimmt wrote on Twitter, however, that “I will continue to express my professional positions at every opportunity.”

In May 2018 US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, then reinstated severe economic sanctions under a “maximum pressure” campaign to force Iran to renegotiate the pact. Israeli has enthusiastically supported that approach.

Iran, however, has vowed that the sanctions would not lead it to negotiate new terms for the deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has declared that Washington’s pressure campaign was doomed to fail.

In this photo released by the official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, January 15, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP)

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action saw previous international sanctions lifted from Iran in return for it agreeing to curb its nuclear program.

The Trump administration claims the JCPOA doesn’t go far enough in stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and did not address the country’s ballistic missile program. Strict sanctions have targeted Iran’s vital oil industry, ravaging its economy.

As the other signatories to the deal struggle to keep the pact alive, Iran has also dropped some of its commitments to the deal, restarting processes that experts say shorten the breakout time it needs to produce enough enriched uranium to make an atomic bomb.

Iran has said it is only prepared to open talks on the deal if the US first removes its sanctions.

Last month three European signatories to the JCPOA — Britain, France and Germany — announced action under the nuclear agreement paving the way for possible sanctions in response to Tehran’s attempts to roll back parts of the deal.

The three countries, which signed the international agreement along with the United States, Russia and China, triggered its “dispute mechanism,” ratcheting up pressure on the Islamic Republic.

AP contributed to this report.

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