On November 29th, Iran and other world powers met for the seventh round of talks, in Vienna, hoping to revive the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. Yet despite this round of talks having indicated hope for some, it has been actively sabotaged prior to its initiation — especially by the government of Israel.
“I have to tell you, recent moves, recent rhetoric, don’t give us a lot of cause for … optimism,” Joe Biden’s Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, told reporters on Thursday. Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-abdollahian said much of the same, doubting the intentions of the Americans and European’s. This came just weeks after Blinken had threatened “other options” against Iran if diplomacy does not work to bring Tehran to an agreement, meaning that further enforcement of sanctions and a military option against Iran are being weighed.
The US’ General Kenneth McKenzie has now even stated that the military option against the Islamic Republic has been prepared. The US government has also been threatening Iran with an escalation at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was condemned by the likes of Russia which saw the threats as being counterproductive just a week prior to another round of indirect negotiations on the nuclear deal.
Israel also states that it has been training for a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, and since January has been threatening Iran with military aggression. On top of this, Israel’s agitating has been relentless in the wake of a new round of talks to revive the deal. Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, said just this Thursday in a phone call with the US Secretary of State, that “Iran is carrying out nuclear blackmail as a negotiating tactic, and this should be answered by the immediate halt to negotiations and the implementation of tough steps by the world powers,” re-iterating his claims of “nuclear blackmail” which he has repeated since Monday.
Israel — specifically former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — was the primary backer of the Trump administration’s decision to exit the deal in 2018 and Tel Aviv strongly supported the “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign. The sanctions have hit the Iranian public the hardest and as a result, the policy, also currently implemented by the Biden administration, was labelled as illegal with the likes of the International Court of Justice, demanding the sanctions be scrapped. The opposition to the sanctions especially came with the news that even certain types of medicine were being prevented from reaching the Iranian public.
For Israel’s current government, loosely put together in a power sharing agreement, the reason behind their erratic pressuring of all sides in a bid to see the talks collapse, it is about securing political legitimacy with the Israeli public. Former Israeli PM Netanyahu, although removed from power, is still overwhelmingly the most popular politician in Israel and the Iran issue has been one of his strong points in marketing himself to Israelis. Since 1992 Netanyahu has been wrongly predicting when Tehran will achieve nukes and has since that time helped to successfully convince the Israeli people that Iran is seeking to use nuclear weapons to wipe out Israel. He projects himself as the strongman that worked with Donald Trump — Trump is popular with more Israelis than Americans — to punish the Iranians.
The fear for PM Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid — who is set to takeover in two years time as Prime Minister — is that their government could collapse at anytime and if Netanyahu then returns, their political careers are over. Alternatively, if all goes to plan, when the next round of elections come around they need to have proved to their public that removing Netanyahu and his Likud Party was the correct measure for the country.
So for Israel’s current leadership, when it comes to military action against Iran, they are making it seem like they’re willing to go to all lengths to keep Tehran down and away from the nuclear weapons that Israelis truly believe are being developed.
Whether Israel will actually launch a strike or not is another question entirely. If they do commit such an action it is likely to backfire terribly, so it would not be a wise choice. Yet that decision will ultimately come down to whether the Israeli leadership care more about themselves or Israel itself.
In the case of the Iranian government, the new President, Ebrahim Raisi, has been branded a “hardliner” by Western media — following the trend of their governments in an unquestioning manner — which have sought to paint him as a tougher negotiator than his predecessor. Yet his government has maintained the exact same position as its predecessors, and that is that the US government, which was the one to abandon the deal, has to be the first to drop its sanctions before Iran will come back into compliance with it.
Many of those in the loyalist camp — Hardliners in Western lingo — were originally opposed to the deal due to attitudes of distrust towards the West, but ended up offering a skeptical approval. They were proven right for their reservations, as the US government withdrew under Trump and then the Europeans refused to double-cross their much stronger ally. Again, the problem does present itself that if Iran manages to revive the deal, Donald Trump could possibly return to power in 2024 landing the Islamic Republic back in square one. This is why Iran are taking steps to shift towards the East.
Iran also warns the US and Israel that any military action taken will be immediately responded to and would constitute a massive mistake. But for the sake of the Iranian people, in an attempt to raise their living standards by achieving the removal of sanctions, the Iranian government is trying to make it work. If we are to take a more skeptical approach, at the very least, Tehran is being forced into attempting to revive the nuclear deal, in order to please their people.
In reality, it cannot be stated enough, and any more clearly: the US and Israeli leaders don’t really care about Iranian nuclear weapons. The Western powers do not believe Iran to be the nuclear-bomb-bound monster their propaganda depicts. It is unlikely they believe that Iran has a secretive nuclear weapons program at all. If they do think Iran is on its way to a bomb, they are clearly demonstrating that this isn’t their priority. The top priority, if we remove the propaganda, is to simply roll back Iran’s missile and drone programs, as well as break Tehran’s regional alliances.