By Mehran Shamsuddin

Is America sacrificing the JCPOA for Israel election?

September 9, 2022 - 21:50

TEHRAN – Talks in Vienna over reviving a 2015 Iran nuclear deal appear to have entered a stage of inertia amid Israeli and American preparations for upcoming elections. 

More than a week has passed since Iran submitted its response to a U.S. response to the “final text” submitted by the European Union coordinator for the Vienna talks, which aims to resuscitate the tattered 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Spokesman for the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nasser Kanaani announced a week ago that Iran submitted its views on America’s response to the draft of a possible agreement on the removal of sanctions.

“After receiving the US response, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s team of experts precisely reviewed it, and Iran’s responses were drafted and submitted to the coordinator on Thursday night (Sept. 8) following evaluations at different levels,” the official said.

“The submitted text has a constructive approach with the goal of finalizing the negotiations,” the spokesman added.

The United States was quick to respond. It described the Iranian response as unconstructive. Since then, U.S. officials have repeated this, accusing Iran of derailing the conclusion of the talks, a charge Iran denies. 

After a bout of Iran-bashing remarks, the U.S. plunged into silence as to when it would respond to the Iranian response. In the meantime, press reports alleged that the conclusion of the talks could be delayed until after the November congressional elections in the U.S. and Israel. 

It seems that the Vienna talks have gotten stuck in electoral politics in Tel Aviv and Washington. Legislative elections are due on November 1, 2022, in Israel. And a week later, U.S. mid-term elections will kick off. Israel has entered what can be called election fever. And the Vienna talks seem to have fallen victim to that fever.

On Thursday, Mossad Director David Barnea concluded a “security-diplomatic” visit to Washington whose main goal was to dissuade the Biden administration from signing the JCPOA. 

“Mossad Director David Barnea, today (8 September 2022), concluded a round of security-diplomatic meetings in the United States, in which he met various senior American officials, including the heads of the CIA and the FBI, the National Security Advisor, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and additional senior administration officials at the State Department,” a statement by the Israeli prime minister’s office said. 

The statement added, “During the meetings, the Director of the Mossad presented sensitive intelligence materials, and emphasized that Israel will not be able to stand idly by while Iran continues to deceive the world.”

It was issued after a meeting between Barnea and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is facing fierce criticism from his political rivals, namely his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, over Israel’s policy toward the Vienna talks. 

Pundits believe that Lapid’s crusade against the JCPOA is primarily motivated by his desire to politically disarm his rivals in the approaching Knesset elections. In a sense, pundits say, Lapid wants to derail the talks to convince Israeli voters that his campaign against Iran is no less fierce than Netanyahu's.

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