Israeli trap

January 22, 2021 - 20:55

TEHRAN – From ostensibly revising military options for a possible clash with Iran to signaling a united front with some Persian Gulf’s Arab states against Tehran, Israeli are on the run to make any thaw in Iran-U.S. relations a difficult task, something that the new U.S. president needs to be aware of if he wants to avoid repeating the mistakes his predecessor made in the West Asia region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s whole world came crashing down around him when he learned of Donald Trump’s election loss in early November. He lost an ally that spared no efforts to accept Israeli demands against Iran. Over the course of the Trump administration, Netanyahu painstakingly sought to develop a close rapport with Trump who was still pretty much an unknown quantity back in 2016. The Israeli prime minister’s efforts culminated in him striking up a bromance with the former president that played a pivotal role in advancing the so-called U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

But all this came to an end in November and now there’s a new sheriff in town. To be sure, Biden is no friend of Iran, but he is not as close to Netanyahu as Trump. And this has sent Bibi Netanyahu scrambling to launch a new campaign to prevent any de-escalation between Tehran and Washington.

Israel is obviously concerned over a possible U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The deal which Israel worked hand in glove with the Trump administration to destroy.

Yearning for the “good old days” of the Trump administration, Israeli officials are now seeking to convince the Biden administration that things have changed since May 8, 2018, when Trump unilaterally pulled out of the JCPOA.

“There are significant concerns across the defense establishment that the Biden administration will go back to the old nuclear deal as if nothing had changed regarding the intelligence picture,” wrote the Jerusalem Post in early January, referring to the alleged nuclear archive of Iran that Israel claimed it had stolen from a warehouse in Tehran more than two years ago.

The Israelis are clearly trying to influence Biden’s Iran policy through a multifaceted disinformation campaign. The Israeli Mossad is busy working to “impress” the Biden administration with its fake documents.

“The Mossad views its challenge as presenting the Biden administration with the evidence in order to get it to internalize the new intelligence Israel seized from under Iran’s nose in January 2018, and which 2015-2016 Obama era officials never got to see,” the Israel newspaper claimed, noting that Mossad director Yossi Cohen had impressed former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former CIA Director Gina Haspel in 2018.

“Cohen would now like to repeat this moment with new officials such as incoming U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan and incoming U.S. secretary of state Tony Blinken,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

In parallel with intelligence efforts, Israel has worked to portray its recently publicized relations with some of Persian Gulf’s Arab states as a new factor that Biden should take into consideration when making decisions on Iran. This was on full display during a recent discussion hosted by an Israeli think tank disguised as an American one.
The Israeli-sponsored Foundation for Defense of Democracies held an event attended by the ambassadors of Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to the United States five days before Biden’s inauguration to convey the message that the region has drastically changed since the last time Biden was a senior White House official.

The discussion also tried to deliver the message that Arab states and Israel are “on the same page” in their approach toward Iran and the U.S. expected return to the JCPOA.

Israel and its new Arab allies keep insisting that the Biden administration must consult with them before rejoining the JCPOA. Biden’s officials have signaled that they will consult with Israel and Arab allies before they make decisions about rejoining the JCPOA.

Speaking in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden’s pick for secretary of state Tony Blinken said if Iran returned to its JCPOA commitments, the U.S. would too.

“But we would use that as a platform with our allies and partners, who would once again be on the same side with us, to seek a longer and stronger agreement,” Blinken noted, “It’s vitally important that we engage on the takeoff, not the landing, with our allies and partners in the region, to include Israel and to include the [Persian] Gulf countries.”

Blinken may have made these remarks to soothe Israel and its Arab allies, who try to secure a seat at the negotiating table with Iran. But the Biden administration needs to be aware of the trap these “allies” are setting for it. Any effort by the Biden administration to appease these allies is a recipe for failure. Israel and its Arab allies are demanding that Biden include Iran’s missile program and its regional influence in any future talks with Iran, something that Iran has repeatedly said it will not negotiate. Therefore, consultations with Israel and its Arab allies will only complicate the situation for the Biden administration.


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