Former IDF intelligence chief: New Iran nuclear deal will be worse, but worth it

A new nuclear deal that may emerge between Iran and world powers in the coming months “will likely be worse” than the 2015 deal, said former IDF intelligence chief Aharon Zeevi Farkash. The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
Following Wednesday night’s announcement that nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic and the so-called P5 + 1 will restart in Vienna on November 29, Zeevi-Farkash claimed that, despite his pessimism, “even such an inferior agreement it’s better than no deal. “

The former IDF intelligence chief said that even a bad deal would give Israel a chance to delay Tehran’s nuclear threat until at least 2031, while at the moment “Iran is close to the nuclear threshold or already at the nuclear threshold. “.

He said he expected a new deal over a period of months, but hoped that the Biden administration and the European Union of France, Germany and the UK would push for a longer and stronger complement to the deal so that the nuclear limits could be extended. even beyond 2031.

In addition, he said that “Iran understands that the United States will agree” that it does not need to go back to the limits of the 2015 agreement on the use of older IR-1 centrifuges, but rather “will allow advanced enrichment by centrifugation at a rate of three, four or even five times faster. “

Several new generation Iranian centrifuges are seen on display during Iran’s National Nuclear Energy Day in Tehran (credit: IRAN PRESIDENCY OFFICE / WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) / HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

This was a reference to the hundreds of advanced IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges that Tehran has been operating for most of 2021.

Acknowledging that, “at this time, the United States is opposed” to allowing the Islamic Republic to own advanced centrifuges that it was prohibited from keeping under the JCPOA, he said, “but if you look at Biden’s policies, the problems he has with Radical Democrats, [Democrat] loss in Virginia [gubernatorial election]… Biden wants to finish this deal, ”so it won’t be a distraction from the bigger battles that matter most to him.

Ideally, he said Jerusalem “will act behind the scenes. It’s good that Bennett works behind the scenes, along the lines of the letter I wrote with [former Israel atomic agency committee chairman] Gideon Frank… Israel needs to influence the new agreement ”, to improve it and Washington certainly does not want to antagonize Israel on this issue.

Zeevi-Farkash was a harsh critic of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tactic of regular and open verbal attacks on the Iranian policy of the Obama and Biden administrations and said the criticisms should have been aired in private.

Regarding uranium enrichment, he said, “after Iran surpassed three tons of enriched uranium stocks and the enrichment level of 60%, and nobody knows what happened since February, I trust the head of the IAEA [Rafael Grossi] who said, “there is no state that is as advanced in uranium enrichment as Iran that does not already have a military nuclear capability.”

There is now some hope that Iran is returning to the talks and that the harsh economic sanctions and coronavirus problems it has suffered have put pressure on it to do so.

Zeevi-Farkash said that even if “they are a threshold state… it does not mean that Iran has made the decision to cross the threshold. I think they have not made this decision ”and hinted that the Islamic Republic may avoid making such a decision due to the military reaction it could generate.

The former IDF intelligence chief said he agreed with former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s warnings that Iran would find it easier to hide its 60% enriched uranium than its previous less enriched stock, even if it returns to talks.

In addition, he agreed that the possibility of the ayatollahs hiding such enriched uranium would make any new breakdown calculations of a new agreement less reliable, and said that part of the mistake in withdrawing from the 2015 agreement was that it freed Iran from constant IAEA scrutiny in Natanz, Karaj and other facilities.

Where can Israel improve on the potential new deal if Zeevi-Farkash already expects Biden’s team to back down on the advanced centrifuge issue?

He said there must be better IAEA oversight of Iran’s nuclear-related arms groups.

Noting that “all discussions are always on the issue of uranium enrichment,” he warned that if Iran is already on the threshold of uranium enrichment, “the talks should ensure that the weapons group and ballistic missile development are monitored. “

“It will be difficult to stay calm if there is no follow-up on all three issues,” he said.

He said he was not sure whether the United States will get Iran to stop advanced underground research on centrifuges. This is significant as it is potentially more difficult to attack underground facilities.

Regarding metallic uranium, he believes that the United States has convinced Tehran to stop production as part of a new agreement.

Along with previous views, Zeevi-Farkash emphasized that Jerusalem’s “covert battle must continue” against Iran’s nuclear program and regional expansion.

He also advocated for Israeli-American diplomacy to strengthen the Abrahamic Accords movement to balance Iranian diplomatic efforts to increase its influence with Sunni countries.

Former Mossad Iran desk official and current INSS member Sima Shine was even more pessimistic than Zeevi-Farkash.

He said there could be a deal, but at this point he believed there was a slightly higher chance that there would be no deal and that Iran would continue to advance its nuclear program.

“Iran’s positions are extremely tough and they have very vehement demands. I don’t know if maybe the talks will explode right away or they could run into trouble in later rounds, but the US won’t be able to meet. [Iran’s current] demands. “

Some of these include the removal of sanctions before Iran returns to compliance with nuclear limits and the total removal of Trump-era sanctions, including those related to human rights and terrorism.

Like Zeevi-Farkash, Shine considered the 2015 deal to have holes, but it was better than the current situation.

One big question the former Mossad official said he should focus on is: “Are the Iranians just dragging things out to have a few meetings every now and then, and then they will issue unacceptable demands? What is your end game? “

She raised two possibilities: They think that by taking a tougher stance “maybe they will get better terms,” ​​but overall, they still want a deal, or “they may have already decided there will be no deal and are dragging the game to play the game. blame game later, as he gradually approaches [the nuclear] threshold.”

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