Nuclear deal talks between Western powers and Iran are hanging by a thread, and are set to resume on Nov.29, but both sides will have cards to play while seeking to gain leverage and concessions from the other, already after severe doubts have been expressed by Biden administration officials that a fully restored JCPOA is possible.
There’s been talk that the Biden White House could be content to settle on a partial deal which would involve partial sanctions relief if the Islamic Republic agrees to reverse parts of their nuclear development, particularly recent installation of advanced centrifuges and higher enriched uranium levels.
But as a report in Responsible Statecraft underscores if certain milestones are hit, they would be difficult or impossible to reverse, and critics especially in Tel Aviv allege it’s all part of Tehran’s efforts to obtain a nuke. “Iran has also produced 200 g of uranium metal (UM) from enriched uranium at 19.75 percent level,” the report states.
“If the UM is made of uranium enriched at 90 percent, it can be used in making the core of a nuclear weapon,” Responsible Statecraft writes. “But, if the enrichment level is lower, once converted to the UM, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for Iran to convert it back to regular enriched uranium to increase its level of enrichment.”
Given this, Israel is now pressing the White House not to all an partial deal to unfold. According to The Wall Street Journal this week:
“Israel is very concerned that the U.S. is setting the stage for what they call a ‘less for less’ agreement,” a senior Israeli official told The Wall Street Journal. “Such an agreement would be detrimental and would only benefit the Iranian regime…It would be an enormous gift to Iran’s new, radical and IRGC affiliated regime,” the senior Israel official said, referring to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
It should be noted, however, that the Iranians themselves have consistently demanded full and up-front sanctions relief as a condition for restoring the 2015 JCPOA, thus for now it appears next weeks resumed Vienna talks will continue with a full deal in mind as the end goal.
Further the WSJ notes that just such a partial deal had been a precursor to the 2015 deal struck under Obama: “In 2013, the U.S. struck an interim pact with Iran which provided Iran close to $700 million a month in sanctions relief in exchange for freezing production of 20% enriched uranium and shrinking down their stockpile of higher enriched nuclear fuel among other steps,” the report says.
But again, Israel thinks this will only embolden the Islamic Republic and other bad faith actors:
“Such an agreement will convince the Iranian public and countries in the region that nuclear blackmail works,” said the senior Israeli official, who said the U.S. was engaging with Iran despite its stalling tactics for the talks and an allied militia’s attack on a U.S. base in Syria. “It looks like the U.S. might be giving Iran a bargain deal.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a speech days ago that “We hope the world does not blink, but if it does, we do not intend to” – in what appeared yet another veiled reference that military options, including covert sabotage attacks, are still on the table.
The constant refrain out of Israel’s leaders has been that it reserves “the right” to act against Iran if it feels the Jewish state is threatened.