(CNSNews.com) – Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Sunday the “dangers” posed by the Iran nuclear accord currently under consideration are even greater than the original 2015 agreement, and recalled the Biden administration’s stated determination to achieve a “longer and stronger” deal.
“This deal is not a good deal,” he said in a statement to reporters. “It was not a good deal when it was signed back in 2015. Today, the dangers it entails are even greater. It is closer to its sunset date and Iran is more advanced technologically.”
Leaks of the draft deal on the table indicate that, if implemented, it will not reset the clock on the “sunset” provisions that were contained in the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Instead, they will remain in place as they originally were, meaning that restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities will begin to expire as early as March 2024.
The public statement of opposition marks a shift for Lapid, who along with his immediate predecessor Naftali Bennett has up until now sought to manage differences with Washington over Iran in a less heated fashion than characterized the relationship between the Binyamin Netanyahu and Obama-Biden administrations.
Lapid said Israel was not opposed to an Iran agreement per se.
“It is both possible and necessary to make Iran sign a much better agreement, one that the Americans themselves dubbed ‘longer and stronger,’” he said.
“Longer – because it would be an agreement without an expiration date, as French President Emmanuel Macron has suggested,” Lapid continued (possibly a reference to remarks made by Macron alongside President Trump in 2018).
“Stronger - because supervision would be tighter, and it would address Iran’s ballistic missile program and its involvement in terrorism throughout the Middle East.”
Lapid said such an agreement was possible, “if a credible military threat is put on the table – if the Iranians realize that their defiance and deceit will exact a heavy price.”
He claimed that the U.S. threat of bombs capable of penetrating bunkers had succeeded in Iran getting the message and signing the original deal in 2015.
“That is what led the Iranians to sign the deal last time. President Obama revealed the capabilities of the bunker busters – munitions that can penetrate bunkers – and the Iranians got the message and signed the deal.”
Much of the regime’s suspect nuclear program infrastructure is based below ground.
In a further challenge to the Biden administration, Lapid said the pending agreement – a draft drawn up by the European Union, with Washington and Tehran in the process of exchanging responses – did not meet President Biden’s own stated goals.
“After the latest proposal that the European Union put on the table, we told the Americans, ‘This is not what President Biden wanted.’ It is not what he talked about during his visit in Israel, and it is not what he signed on in the Jerusalem Declaration.”
The declaration signed during Biden’s visit last month states in part:
“The United States stresses that integral to this pledge is the commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that it is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome. The United States further affirms the commitment to work together with other partners to confront Iran’s aggression and destabilizing activities, whether advanced directly or through proxies and terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
Lapid concluded his statement by saying Israel maintains its right to defend itself.
“We made it clear to the Americans that the State of Israel will not be dependent on Iran’s decisions, nor on those of the world powers,” he said. “If an agreement is signed, it will not oblige us. We are not a party to it and it will not limit our actions.”
“The IDF and the Mossad have received instructions from us to prepare for any scenario.”
On Sunday, the former commander of U.S. Central Command, retired Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, said that if a nuclear deal with Iran is concluded and sanctions are lifted, that will give the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “added funding to further – to further support their destabilizing and malign activities across the region.”
McKenzie’s remark, in an appearance on Fox News Sunday, echoed that of Lapid last week.
“This money,” Lapid told reporters, in reference to funds that would be released to the regime under the agreement, “will not build schools or hospitals. This is $100 billion a year that will be used to undermine stability in the Middle East, and spread terror around the globe.”
‘Longer and stronger’
Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018 prompted Iran to begin violating its uranium-enrichment and related commitments, a process that accelerated after the 2020 presidential election, according to a Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) analysis.
Then Biden came in, seeking to return both the U.S. and Iran to compliance. During the earlier stages of the diplomacy, administration officials referred frequently to the goal of a “longer and stronger” agreement, dealing with malign behavior beyond the nuclear issue
Five months before the 2020 election, Blinken – then a foreign policy adviser to the Biden campaign, now secretary of state – told an American Jewish Committee event that if a Biden administration succeeds in getting Iran and the U.S. to return to compliance with the JCPOA, “we would use that as a platform with our partners and allies, who would be on the same side with us again, to negotiate a longer and stronger deal.”
Just weeks into the new administration, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden has pledged to return to the deal, once Iran returns to its commitments, and will “then use that as a platform to build a longer and stronger agreement that also addresses other areas of concern.”
In April last year State Department spokesman Ned Price said because of Iranian malign behavior including support for terrorism, the administration sees mutual return to JCPOA compliance as a necessary but “insufficient” first step – “because we seek not only a longer and stronger deal, but over the longer term, working with partners in the region, follow-on agreements to address these very issues.”
The following month, Blinken told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that if the U.S. and Iran agree to return to compliance with the JCPOA, the U.S. could use the return to the original deal as a foundation to see if it could be made “potentially longer and stronger.”