By Azin Sahabi

AFPC: Messengers of Israeli officials to U.S.

February 27, 2021 - 11:40

TEHRAN- Tehran started the enforcement of Iran’s parliamentary law regarding suspending the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the NPT on February 23. Called “Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions and Protect the Interest of Iranian Nation”, the law obligates the Iranian government to stop implementing some nuclear commitments.

Such a move, which is in line with paragraph 36 of the JCPOA, sets certain conditions for Iran to reverse its nuclear decisions.

The move was declared two days after the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agreed on the Iranian law.

Just a day before the deal went into force, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to discuss Israeli strategy against the Iranian nuclear program, since Biden’s arrival at the White House.

On February 24, just a day after the implementation of the law, Gantz said: “The IDF is currently working to build up our forces and is preparing itself for any scenario, including one in which we would need to take [operational] action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” 

It seems that these think tanks are in a rush to recommend the Biden White House to take the worries of Israel to heart. Denouncing the Obama administration's diplomatic path towards Iran’s nuclear program, the think tanks warn that Israel is fearful that history could soon repeat itself.

Message from Israel

Among major pro-Israel foreign policy think tanks, the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) has been quite vocal and among the experts, Ilan Berman, has penned the greatest number of commentaries on the issue. 

The institute is staffed by noted specialists in foreign and defense policy who work closely with members of Congress, the executive branch, and the policymaking community.

Berman has consulted for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as well as the U.S. Departments of State and Defense. He regularly proposes several testimonies before the U.S. Congress to draw roadmaps to undermine Iran. This fellow has been called one of America's "leading experts on the Middle East (West Asia) and Iran" by CNN.  

On the same day of implementing Iran’s parliamentary law, Berman, in an article titled “What Israel Is Telling Biden About Iran”, writes: “Officials in Jerusalem are sending the Biden Administration a clear message: there no need to rush to reengage Iran, and a lot of risk in doing so.”

In this regard, the expert refers to the expressions made by Major General Tamir Heiman, the head of the Israeli Military Intelligence (often abbreviated to Aman).

The Jerusalem Post, on February 9, quoted the Israeli general who declared Tehran has not stopped investing in its nuclear program “but due to the actions carried out by the U.S. and Israel, is at an unprecedented low point”. 

AFPC emphasizes that Israeli’s intelligence institutions are infamously tight-lipped about their strategic estimates. Thus, the analyst believes that such a disclosure on Iran’s nuclear program was nothing short of unprecedented.

Berman, points out that even before Joe Biden's took office, the incoming figures of the Oval Office made abundantly clear that at the very center of their agenda towards West Asia, talking with Tehran would sit.

AFPC also reminds that, in late January, Biden’s new national security adviser Jake Sullivan told the Washington Post that Biden considers “an urgent restoration of the international nuclear deal with Iran as a first step to deal with a range of threats from that country.”

In parallel, on February 1, in his first television interview since he took office, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, claimed that Tehran was just "weeks away" from gaining the required fissile material to produce a nuclear weapon.

AFPC adds that about two weeks later, the secretary of state, called European foreign ministers to tell them that Washington would join them in seeking to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. 

Berman stresses that these series of moves could indicate that the U.S. is proffering “preemptive concessions to the Iranians as a good-faith gesture.” He argues that some in the Biden administration's circle have suggested that the Oval Office should choose a “more for more” approach in Iran talks or let the deal fall apart. For example, Ilan Goldenberg, a foreign policy and defense expert at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), advocates this policy and argues: “The U.S. must be willing to give more to Iran in any follow-on arrangement. More sanctions relief. More incentives for more concessions.”

Berman reiterates that according to the Israeli military intelligence official, "In its current situation, Iran considers a nuclear deal the only way out of the crisis, and hence it is trying to go back to the deal it signed in 2015."

Concerning Heiman’s remarks, AFPC argues that if this interpretation is precise, it indicates that for the Iranian side, neither the 2015 JCPOA nor the one which Biden hopes to conclude in the future is a “meaningful constraint on their strategic trajectory.”

Hanging on “Iran: A State Sponsor of Terror” as a perpetual analytical premise, Berman recommends the White House to “reassure officials in Jerusalem (and in other regional capitals) by explaining how, precisely, it plans to balance its new push for reengagement with Iran's regime and its support for America's traditional Mideast partners.”

Against this backdrop, with the quarterly meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency

 Board of Governors next week, the recent American move regarding Tehran’s cooperation with IAEA is worth mentioning.

The U.S. diplomats circulated a document on Thursday in which Washington’s concerns that Iran should fully cooperate with inspectors are listed and calls for a resolution to “express the Board’s deepening concern with respect to Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA.” 

It seems that the recent unproductive move by the American side is a formally articulated version of recommendations made by think tanks to convince Biden to follow the footprints of Trump in terms of the Iran deal. In fact, all recommendations proposed by fellows such as Berman, are quite in line with those heard from Israeli and American hawks. But such recommendations which are informally released by a foreign policy expert do not grab the headlines. Meanwhile, formal statements declared by an official may become viral. Maybe, think tanks such as AFPC function as messengers from Israel to the U.S. to serve the interests of Tel Aviv.

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