Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is headed to Washington this week for his first visit to the US since coming into office in June. He is set to meet with President Biden on Thursday, and Iran is expected to be the focus of the meeting.
An Israeli diplomatic source told The Times of Israel that Bennett will present a new strategy to Biden on “confronting” Iran’s nuclear program and its regional activity that does not involve a revival of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
Indirect negotiations between the US and Iran to revive the JCPOA have been on hold since June 20th. Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi has signaled that he’s ready to continue talks, but at this point, it’s not clear when they will resume.
“When we began to plan the visit, a return to the agreement seemed certain. Since then, time has passed, the president in Iran has changed, and things seem far less certain. In our view, it may be that there is no return to the agreement,” the source told the Times. The report didn’t offer any detail on what Bennett’s plan might be.
It’s no secret that Israel is opposed to a JCPOA revival, but Bennett has been trying to express his objections privately to avoid the confrontational approach former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took in 2015 when the deal was negotiated.
The Israelis point to Iran’s recent increase in uranium enrichment as evidence that the Islamic Republic is racing to develop a bomb. But Iran has only taken these steps in response to Israeli covert attacks. In April, when the JCPOA talks began, an Israeli attack caused an explosion at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. Tehran responded by increasing some uranium enrichment to 60 percent, which is still lower than the 90 percent needed for weapons-grade.
While the US has roundly condemned Iran’s 60 percent enrichment, Washington has refused to condemn Israel’s reckless attack, giving the covert activity a tacit endorsement.
The US blames Iran for the delay in talks, but the Biden administration’s refusal to lift all Trump-era sanctions is the reason why the two sides have not yet reached an agreement. Biden’s hardline stance is forcing Iran to negotiate and make concessions even though it is Washington that violated the JCPOA in the first place.