In the third week of November, nuclear talks resumed in Vienna between Iran and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, China) and Germany to reframe the 2015 accord approved by President Barack Obama when he was in office.
Readers will recall that in May 2018, former President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord with Iran, asserting, “This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made…. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace and it never will,” Trump said at the time, as reported by The New York Times.
Former President Obama was quick to respond to Trump’s decision, which he described as “a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East.”
Joe Biden openly campaigned for the presidency with the promise that he would restore the United States’ status as an active party to the agreement with Iran. Biden had a meaningful victory over Trump in the 2020 presidential election, garnering 81,284,666 popular votes and 306 electoral votes to 74,224,319 popular votes and 232 electoral votes for Trump. The outcome of presidential elections has consequences, and one of those is President Biden’s efforts to revive the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Israel has a keen interest in the negotiations with Iran that are taking place in Vienna. For many years, Iran has been fighting a proxy war against Israel. The fundamentalist Islamic Republic of Iran has generously funded the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah. Like Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran is dedicated to Israel’s obliteration. Both Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and its recently elected president, Ebrahim Raisi, have openly called for destruction of the state of Israel.
Israel clearly has a vital stake in the current negotiations between Iran and the P5 plus one. Iran is dedicated to advancing its nuclear program and is also committed to eradication of a Jewish homeland in Israel. Though Israel is not a party to the negotiations, it has sent observers to Vienna and is in close contact with U.S. representatives.
Iran has taken a very hard line in the current talks. It has refused to meet directly with U.S. negotiators and, as The Times has reported, proposes changes to the fundamental structure of the 2015 agreement and is proceeding rapidly with its efforts to build robust nuclear capabilities.
Iran’s population of approximately 84 million, particularly its middle class, has been stung by the effect of financial sanctions imposed on it by the United States. Many young Iranians openly question the viability of enjoying a full life in the fundamentalist state. Despite the hardship endured by its people, Iran’s leadership is steadfast in its rebuffing overtures from the Biden administration. President Biden is ensnared in negotiations with Iran’s leadership that have ample reason to be flexible but appear immovable.
The Biden administration is seeking to extend the length of a new agreement with Iran from 15 to 25 years. Iran has parried by demanding that the United States and other parties to the talks remove existing financial sanctions against it, in advance of reaching an agreement.
Iran is endeavoring to enrich its nuclear prowess by raising the proportion of fuel with higher grades of uranium. Simply put, while taking a hard line at the Vienna negotiations, Iran is rapidly endeavoring to develop nuclear resources that would enable it to create nuclear weapons.
The distance between Tehran, Iran’s capital, and Jerusalem is approximately 969 miles. Obviously, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it would be able to land them in Israel very rapidly.
Some of Israel’s former high-level national security officials believe it was a mistake for former President Trump to scuttle the agreement with Iran.
“The nuclear deal was flawed, but at least it put a lid on Iran’s advancement [of its nuclear program], which we don’t have now,” Yoel Guzansky, former head of the Iran desk at Israel’s National Security Council told The Washington Post last week.
Iran continues to deny that it intends to build a nuclear bomb and has not nullified its promise in the 2015 agreement “that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.”
Yet Israel cannot protect its population based on Iran’s past pledges while its leaders openly pledge to destroy it. It is of critical importance to remember that Pakistan, a major power in the region, has already acquired nuclear weapons, and that the father of its nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, who died in October, reportedly sold nuclear technology to parties willing to meet his price. Pakistan placed Khan under house arrest in 2004.
Iran has begun enriching uranium to 60%, The Times reported last week, and enriched uranium at that level has no meaningful civilian use.
President Biden is acting in the United Sates’ national interest by instructing U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to spare no effort to come to a renewed nuclear agreement with Iran.
While Israel is the United States’ strongest and most reliable ally in the Middle East, its national security interests are markedly different from America’s vital interests with Iran.
Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett, and its cabinet must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure survival of a Jewish state; that includes launching a preemptive attack against Iran to destroy its nuclear resources. History has taught the Jewish people an unforgettable lesson: Alliances with key partners like the U.S., Great Britain and Germany are of vital significance, but only Israel can guarantee its own national security.
A version of this editorial appeared in the Dec. 16, 2021, issue of the Jewish Herald-Voice of Houston.