Middle East Eye / August 23, 2021
Israeli premier says he will present US president with ‘orderly plan’ to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said he will work to convince US President Joe Biden to abandon his plan to reenter the Iran nuclear deal, ahead of his first visit later this week to the White House as the country’s premier.
In a meeting scheduled for Thursday morning with Biden, Bennett said he will present “an orderly plan that we have formulated in the past two months to curb the Iranians, both in the nuclear sphere and vis-a-vis regional aggression”.
“Iran is behaving in a bullying and aggressive manner throughout the region. I will tell President Biden that it is time to stop the Iranians, to stop this thing, not to give them a lifeline in the form of re-entering into an expired nuclear deal,” Bennett said at the start of the cabinet meeting on Sunday.
The deal “is no longer relevant, even by the standards of those who once thought that it was”, he said.
Bennett has previously stressed that his meeting with Biden will “focus on Iran”, and a White House statement on the visit said the two leaders planned to discuss “regional and global security, including Iran”.
The US administration added, however, that there were plans to also discuss “efforts to advance peace, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians and the importance of working towards a more peaceful and secure future for the region”.
After travelling to Washington, Bennett, who became prime minister in June, said he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Signed in 2015, the agreement lifted sanctions against Tehran after it scaled back its nuclear program. The nuclear accord capped the amount of uranium Tehran can refine at 3.67 percent.
In 2018, the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear agreement and re-imposed crippling sanctions on Tehran. While Iran initially continued to abide by the deal, it has begun to reduce some of its commitments since 2019.
Since US President Joe Biden assumed office in January, months of nuclear negotiations have been held in Vienna. However, the latest round of talks in June ended with no date of resumption.
Earlier this month, the US urged Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, to resume the negotiations and to seize the “opportunity now to advance diplomatic solutions”.
The Israeli premier claimed on Sunday that Iran was “advancing rapidly with uranium enrichment and has already significantly shortened the time that it would take for them to accumulate the material required for a single nuclear bomb.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said in a report last week that Iran has produced uranium metal enriched up to 20 percent for the first time, and has significantly increased its production capacity of uranium enriched up to 60 percent.
Iran, however, denies that it is pursuing nuclear weapons and says it only wants to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
The visit also comes weeks after a spike in tensions between the US and its allies – including Israel – and Iran.
Israel, the US and UK have all accused Iran of carrying out a drone attack on the Mercer Street cargo ship off the coast of Oman in July, which killed the ship’s British captain and a Romanian security officer.
Israel said it provided its allies “hard evidence” that Iran was behind the attack, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of a “collective response”.