By Mohammad Mazhari

Israel likely to intensify tensions before a JCPOA revival: professor

May 15, 2021 - 19:0

TEHRAN - An American professor says it is possible that Israel as the chief opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal can raise tension over a possible revival of the agreement before it tones down its rhetoric or stop its malicious acts.

Noting that both Iran and the U.S. want to get back to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Karl Kaltenthaler tells the Tehran Times that "It will possibly raise tensions before it would lower them.” 
Iran and the five remaining parties to the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), coupled with the United States have started talks in Vienna, to convince the Biden administration to return the multilateral agreement. 
Kaltenthaler says Israel and Saudi Arabia do not want the United States to move back into the nuclear deal but Tehran and Riyadh are in the process of normalizing ties and the sides have so far held talks in Baghdad. 
Israeli officials have warned about military escalation if the JCPOA is revived. After targeting Iran's ships and some sabotage operations in the Iran nuclear facilities, the world is witnessing Israeli aggression against Palestinians.
It seems that since the Israeli regime have failed to find a solution to its domestic crises and its international isolation it resorting to violent acts to start a war. Its attacks on the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are examples.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: The Vienna talks are going on. Are you optimistic about the results? What will be the impact of any possible agreement on West Asia?

A: I believe these talks are the start of a process that both the Iranian government and the Biden Administration want to work.  Both sides want to get back to a deal where there is sanctions relief for Iran in exchange for verifiable commitments by Iran to not develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons.  After some initial posturing by both sides, it seems like they are both working on getting to a deal.  In terms of the impact of the deal for the Middle East (West Asia), it will possibly raise tensions before it would lower them.  Israel and Saudi Arabia do not want the United States to move back into a nuclear deal with Iran.  

"The reason why the U.S. is pulling out of Afghanistan and arguably from the Middle East (West Asia) is that Biden believes that there is no longer the stomach in the American electorate for "forever wars."   Also, both countries do not want Iran to be out from under sanctions pressure claiming that that frees up more Iranian money for weapons, support of proxies, etc.  Thus, while a nuclear deal between Iran and the United States could improve relations between those two states, it might actually prompt states like Israel and Saudi Arabia to take measures to weaken Iran or scuttle the deal.  This is more likely to come from Israel than Saudi Arabia because Israel is a more capable military force in the region and has more political leverage in Washington compared to Saudi Arabia.

Q: Israeli officials warn about a war if the U.S. reaches an agreement with Iran over restoring the JCPOA? Given Israel's repeated sabotage operations against Iran and the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, do you expect more escalation after the agreement?  

A: I think it is entirely possible that Israel will try to stop the movement toward the deal.  Also, even if a deal is reached between the United States and Iran, Israel will continue to look at Iran as a very significant threat to its national security and will try to stop any Iranian efforts to develop the know-how or capacity to develop nuclear weapons or missiles that threaten Israel.

Q:  Apparently, Saudi Arabia is going to change its policy towards Iran as it showed more flexibility to Qatar. Are Saudis getting directions from Washington to change their foreign policies? And do you expect the end of the war in Yemen?

A: The Saudis are feeling somewhat isolated on Iran now as the Trump policy of giving Saudi Arabia the benefit of the doubt on most matters is no longer the policy of the U.S. government.  Biden has a much more negative perspective on Saudi Arabia than Trump did.  It seems that Saudi Arabia sees what can be done to reduce tensions with Iran because they feel vulnerable. That can easily change and I would not be surprised if it does.  Iran is not about to abandon its allied forces in the Middle East (West Asia), such as the militias in Iraq or the Houthis in Yemen.  The Houthis, in particular, are a matter of grave concern for Saudi Arabia.  I am not convinced that the Saudi posture toward Iran will really change that much.  

Q: U.S. administration is going to pull its troops from Afghanistan. Do the Americans want to focus on China instead of West Asia?

A: Yes, that is part of it.  China is viewed as the biggest threat to U.S. national security in the American national security establishment.  The other reason why the U.S. is pulling out of Afghanistan and arguably from the Middle East (West Asia) is that Biden believes that there is no longer the stomach in the American electorate for "forever wars." A great deal of the U.S. security establishment believes pulling out of Afghanistan is a mistake and will diminish U.S. national security.  There certainly was no consensus that it was the smart thing to do.

Q: Biden recognized the Armenian genocide. Politically what was his purpose? What will be the possible consequences?

A: There has been a great deal of pressure on American politicians for some time to recognize the Armenian genocide.  The Armenian lobby is fairly strong in the U.S.  This is part of the reason for the decision.  But part of it is also based on the changing nature of the U.S.-Turkish relationship.  Turkey under Erdogan is not viewed as a steadfast ally of the U.S. anymore. Erdogan's authoritarian politics, his aggressive policies in the region, and his willingness to buy weapons from Russia despite being part of NATO have all been major irritants in Washington. Thus, part of the rationale for the decision was to signal to Erdogan that U.S. patience with Turkey is waning.  The last aspect of the decision to mention is the expected minimal fall-out from the decision.  Turkey needs the U.S. more than the U.S. needs Turkey. Turkey's precarious economic situation, general diplomatic isolation from the West, and lower importance in the fight against ISIS have really decreased Erdogan's ability to leverage his position against Washington.   


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