Against the backdrop of the revived nuclear talks in Vienna, Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid engaged in a round of high-profile meetings with British officials on Monday, followed by a meeting in Paris on Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Although diplomats involved have expressed pessimism about a breakthrough in talks, Israel is concerned that in their eagerness to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between Iran and world powers in 2015, negotiators will cave to Iranian demands.
“The issue is to establish a coalition of countries who understand the threat of Iran turning nuclear to the free world, to the Middle East, to Israel and to the Iranian people,” David Menashri, founding director of the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University, told JNS.
“When the foreign minister goes and visits countries and publicizes it, that’s good. I think it’s very important to explain the Israeli point of view, to explain the Iranian threat to the world—above all, the nuclear threat,” he said. “But, you know, the world doesn’t want to listen. You have to speak with them again and again, and to open their minds.”
During his visit, Lapid inked a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on strategic cooperation with his U.K. counterpart, Elizabeth Truss. The two also penned an op-ed in The Telegraph, writing: “We will work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power.”
Lapid stressed the Iran threat in two speeches Monday. He told Britain’s Foreign Office: “A nuclear Iran will thrust the entire Middle East into a nuclear arms race. We will find ourselves in a new cold war, but this time the bomb will be in the hands of religious fanatics.”
Later, at a luncheon with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he said: “Our friendship will be reflected in the coming months in our shared determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, at all costs.”
Similarly, following what was characterized as a “long and warm meeting with the president of France” by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday, Lapid said that “after many years, Israel’s position is being heard and Israel’s position is firm. Sanctions on Iran must not be lifted. Sanctions need to be tightened; there needs to be a credible military threat on Iran because only this will prevent it from continuing its race towards a nuclear weapon.”
‘Nobody talks strategically about the state itself’
Mordechai Kedar, senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is more critical of Israel’s diplomatic efforts, describing the nuclear issue as a “byproduct” of the real issue.
“Everybody is talking about tactics—how to stop the nuclear program. Nobody talks strategically about the state itself. From here, the problem starts. What I’m talking about is the structure of Iran. I’m not talking about the nuclear issue,” he told JNS.
Kedar drew a parallel between the situation with Iran today and the Soviet Union. “Back then, people also talked about nuclear issues, ICBMs, missiles. Nobody really talked about the structure of the Soviet Union, which was made of many ethnic groups. What ended up happening is that instead of one Soviet Union, what you have today is 15 ethnic countries.”
He argued that Iran isn’t made up of a single “Iranian people” but a collection of ethnicities that are oppressed by the country’s largest ethnic group, the Persians. Those separate groups, among them the Azeris, Kurds, Baluchs (or Balochs, an Iranian people who live mainly in the Balochistan region) and Arabs, don’t share a common Iranian identity and resent Persian control, he said.
Israel and the West have avoided talking about the human-rights issues for a host of reasons, said Kedar, noting the main one at the moment is the fact that America wants to engage with Iran, so the topic is brushed aside.
Menashri agreed that he would like to see Western countries speak more about the suffering of the Iranians under the regime. “The world should also care about the lack of human rights. … If Israel says it, it sounds like it’s out of self-interest, but let Sweden speak about it, the Norwegians, Britain. … Let them raise these issues,” he said.
So far, it appears that Iran has taken a maximalist approach to negotiations in Vienna, suggesting that everything that had been discussed in previous rounds would be subject to renegotiation.
Additionally, Iran accused Israel of “trumpeting lies to poison” the Vienna talks.
“Israeli regime whose existence relies on tension is at it again, trumpeting lies to poison Vienna talks,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh posted on Twitter without specifying what specific Israeli comments he was referring to.
“All parties in the room now face a test of their independence & political will to carry out the job—irrespective of the fake news designed to destroy prospects for success,” he added.
On Monday, Axios reported that Israel had shared intelligence with the U.S. and European allies suggesting that Iran was taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90 percent purity, the amount needed for a nuclear weapon.
Israel needs support because as a small country it can’t do it alone, said Menashri. “Israel will not be able to do anything against the nuclear program without the prior knowledge of and probably also the blessing of the United States.”
Source » jns