According to a report from The Times of Israel, the Israeli Military Intelligence thinks a new nuclear deal with Iran that permanently bans the Islamic Republic from enriching uranium up to the 90 percent level needed for weapons-grade is both “feasible” and would alleviate Israel’s “primary concerns.” This idea was presented as part of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) annual intelligence assessment.
The 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, limits Iran to enriching uranium at 3.67 percent. Currently, since the US withdrew from the deal in 2018, Iran is enriching some uranium at 20 percent, still vastly lower than 90 percent, which Iran has never attempted. Tehran has made it clear that they would scale enrichment back to 3.67 percent if the US lifts sanctions to comply with the JCPOA.
Under the JCPOA, constraints on Iran’s nuclear program would be lifted after 15 years of compliance. Because of this, Israel and other critics of the JCPOA claim it is a pathway to a nuclear-armed Iran. But that ignores the fact that Iran is a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a pact that bans non-nuclear armed states from acquiring nuclear weapons.
For all their talk about Iran’s nuclear program, Israel is not a party to the NPT and is secretive about its nuclear arsenal, maintaining a policy of ambiguity. Current estimates put Israel’s arsenal between 90 and 300 nuclear warheads.
The Times of Israel report said the IDF sees the Biden administration eventually rejoining the JCPOA as a “near-certainty.” Israel’s Military Intelligence believes it would be best to focus on working with the US to get “the best deal as possible.” But Iranian officials have been clear they have no interest in negotiating any new agreements before the US lifts sanctions and returns to the JCPOA.
The Biden administration is demanding Iran scale back its nuclear enrichment to comply with the terms agreed to in 2015 before giving any sanctions relief. But since the US is the party that violated the JCPOA, Tehran wants to see Biden act first.