(March 21, 2022 / JNS) A revived Iran nuclear deal is likely close to being done, and if it passes, Israel and the region will end up paying a “high price” for the agreement, a former Israeli intelligence official has cautioned.
Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, an ex-Military Intelligence Research Division head for the Israel Defense Forces and former director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, assessed that the United States, Iran, and other powers are likely in the last stages of negotiations, and are dealing with “the most difficult areas of divisions, with both sides seeking to avoid an impression that they exaggerated in compromises.”
Kuperwasser, today the director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, added that Iran’s appetite for further gains is high and Tehran believes that it will be able to get the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps off the U.S. sanctions list “in this ‘going-out-of-business sale.’ ”
Israel, he said, should connect to American public opinion and encourage opposition to the deal while it’s still possible. “Congress is not very impressed with the would-be agreement, and Arab states are against it. [U.S. President Joe] Biden plans to ignore this,” said Kuperwasser.
“This agreement is bad for Israel and for the U.S.,” he stated, describing its supervision mechanisms as unsatisfactory, much like the original 2015 agreement. “Real supervision would not, unfortunately, happen under this deal. There is no supervision today, but when the deal takes effect, it will be far from sufficient either.”
In a recent paper published with the JCPA, Kuperwasser wrote that once “Iran re-enters the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], it will gain access to its frozen assets (about $100 billion) and increased revenues from oil exports. The vast sums can fortify the regime at home, increase its activity to export the Islamic revolution in the region and beyond, and strengthen its malignant proxies.”
Israel should mount deniable operations to stem Iran’s nuclear program, said Kuperwasser, though he also warned that Jerusalem will not undertake operations that cannot be denied, as this would lead to a direct clash with the United States. That, he added, is not on the table for the Israeli government.
In the immediate future following an agreement, there will be less of a need for open operations since Iran will decrease its uranium enrichment activities and decrease its stockpile, he noted.
‘This is our natural position’
Separately, Kuperwasser said Israel’s position regarding Russia’s war against Ukraine is obvious to seasoned observers, stating: “We are on the West’s side. This is our natural position.”
Although Israel has utilized ties with both Moscow and Kyiv to mediate, Kuperwasser assessed that Russia and Ukraine would, could, when they so desire, reach a compromise with or without Israeli mediation services.
“Everyone understands that our position is to be alongside Ukraine, whatever its president said,” affirmed Kuperwasser.
Russia, for its part, has made a connection between its war and the nuclear agreement by delaying the signature stage of the agreement as it sought “assurances” from Washington that sanctions placed on it would not extend to Russian activities within Iran, such as its work to operate and build nuclear reactors at Bushehr.
That would not be enough to scuttle the agreement, even if Russia stayed out of it, argued Kuperwasser, since the key players in reviving the JCPOA are Iran and the United States. “Iran is being asked to end its transgressions, and the Americans want to go back to the agreement” by lifting sanctions,” he said, noting that these are the most important issues.
In his paper, Kuperwasser stated that “the disorganized American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the cautious American response to the Russian buildup and attack against Ukraine, convinced the rulers in Tehran that their policy was justified and encouraged them to stick to their position. If the agreement does go into effect, Israel will have to mount a covert campaign to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.”
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