The nuclear agreement between the West and Iran is all but fait accompli, as Tehran confirmed Wednesday night that the United States has responded to a draft submitted by the Islamic Republic as part of the negotiations.
Israel's efforts, at the 11th hour, are not expected to change the outcome of the negotiations to revive the 2015 agreement. If U.S. President Joe Biden and Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei wish to seal the deal, nothing will stop them, not even one or two unresolved issues.
This is a bad agreement for Israel. Even those in Israel who backed the original 2015 deal, say the revived version is not just bad, but very bad.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid convened the foreign press in Jerusalem for a briefing, where he urged the West to reject the new deal. Defense Minister Benny Gantz took off for U.S. earlier in the day, but his meetings with U.S. officials will include neither U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, nor Biden. The White House even rejected Lapid's initial request for an emergency phone discussion on the emerging nuclear deal.
Therefor, it is difficult not to ask if Israel knew the agreement has been on the verge of being signed for awhile now, why did the blitz to avert it began so late?
To his credit, Lapid is consistent in his stance against the agreement. The arguments he presented Wednesday to the foreign press were on point: "Israel isn't against any agreement, but it is against this one because it is a bad deal. The emerging deal does not meet the standards set by President Biden himself: preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear state."
Lapid also spoke about the risk of $100 billion a year being poured into the Iranian regime, once the economic sanctions are lifted.
That money won’t be used to build schools or hospitals. It will be used to destabilize the Middle East and spread terror around the world. It will be used to strengthen the regime which oppresses the Iranian people, fund more attacks on American military positions in the region, and strengthen its local proxies, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad.
The move could also encourage counties like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to abandon the Americans allyship and join the axis led by Iran, and there have been hints recently of such move being taken.
In addition to the security and political implications, the nuclear agreement will have very challenging economic implications, certainly in times of inflation and rise of the cost of living. The moment the agreement is signed, Israel will need to allocate a fortune to its military to boost capabilities neglected in recent years. In addition, a considerable amount of funds will be needed to execute covert operations to stay one step ahead of Tehran.
The IDF will have to deal with Iran's proxies in the region who will become stronger thanks to influx of money and weapons supplied by Tehran, which upon signing of the deal would be sans economic restrictions.
Contrary to what some may believe (and to what is sometimes reported in the media), defense officials do not have a unanimous position on the agreement.
Head of the Military Intelligence Directorate Major General Aharon Haliva believes the current agreement is better than a situation in which there is no agreement at all. The chief of IDF's Research Department Brigadier General Amit also supports this position. IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Aviv Kochavi, however, doesn't agree with them, and so doesn't Director of Mossad David Barnea - who opposes it the most.
Lapid also thinks the agreement is bad, while Gantz is also among those who oppose it, but has not publicly said it so far, and has avoided doing so on his visits to the United States. His chances of changing the minds of the Americans on the upcoming trip to the U.S. are slim.
It should be mentioned that in 2015, senior Military Intelligence Directorate officials believed the agreement was not as bad as described, and in 2018 they thought Donald Trump's withdrawal from it was not necessarily a positive thing. Only then, they feared to express their opinion, which at the time was unpopular. However, they turned out to be somewhat correct, and it is wrong to denounce them now, their opinion must be heard out loud.
They believe the agreement in its revived form will provide valuable time for building a credible military option in dealing with nuclear Iran. They may be right, but the Iranians will also use this valuable time, not only to prepare offensive operations, but also to build defensive capabilities against a potential Israeli attack.
Time, unfortunately, can work in favor of both sides.
The bottom line, even if a military option is prepared, it will not destroy the Iranian nuclear program completely, at best it will set it back it for a certain period of time. The question of whether such a move is worthwhile at all - will continue to hover over the decision makers for the foreseeable future.