On the contrary, it’s clearly in the best interest of everyone—including the US and Israel—to uphold the nuclear agreement with Iran and then increase the measures to supervise its implementation in letter and spirit. The US, for example, is currently embroiled in an active nuclear dispute with North Korea, and cancelling the nuclear agreement with Iran will only cause trouble on another front and increase China and Russia’s extortion abilities towards the US.
Moreover, the US has no interest in withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran because all its European partners would not follow in its footsteps and, as a result, Iran would have no problem bypassing the sanctions that would be imposed by the US. An American demand to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran might also split the United Nations Security Council.
Israel has no interest in cancelling the nuclear agreement as such a move might force it to enter an active—and perhaps military—conflict with Iran, while the US is completely focused on the crisis with North Korea and on the other difficulties the Trump administration faces.
In addition, Israel is likely preparing a series of technological, cyber and military measures for the day Iran will no longer be committed to the nuclear agreement. In 10 years from now, Iran will likely try to obtain a nuclear weapon, like North Korea did.
Israel also has an interest to wait and see how Washington solves its crisis with Pyongyang. The second ballistic missile fired by North Korea over Japan last Thursday comes as another sign this crisis could get worse and the US might have to act. An American military operation against North Korea could make any activity against the nuclear agreement with Iran unnecessary.
When the Iranians see what happens to North Korea after pushing its luck with the US, they might think twice before trying to obtain nuclear weapons. In this case, Israel would simply enjoy the windfall.
Leverage of pressure
Another reason why the nuclear agreement with Iran shouldn’t be cancelled is the fact the Islamic Republic is implementing it in letter and spirit—and American intelligence agencies, Israel and the UN inspectors monitoring the implementation of the deal in Iran can testify to that. If Iran isn’t violating the agreement, US President Donald Trump has no lawful cause to cancel it or withdraw from it. Congress, which is supposed to receive a report from the president next month on whether Tehran is meeting the terms of the agreement with the US, won’t allow him to walk away from it for no reason.
The government in Jerusalem and the Defense Ministry and General Staff in Tel Aviv are well aware of this. In meetings with senior defense officials, the unequivocal recommendation is to avoid pressuring the US to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, but rather to establish tight cooperation with American intelligence agencies that are monitoring the nuclear program and Iran’s fulfillment of its commitments.
Moreover, Israel has a clear security interest in reaching understandings with the American administration on the measures and actions that will be taken after the nuclear agreement expires and Iran renews its race towards a nuclear bomb.
Allegedly, there’s a contradiction between the defense establishment’s stance and the prime minister and defense minister’s unequivocal demand that the US withdraw from the nuclear agreement signed by former US President Barack Obama. Trump promised to do just that during his election campaign, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is allegedly demanding he stand by his word.
Is there a difference of opinion here between the Israeli defense establishment and the political echelon? Not necessarily. From conversations with state officials, it’s quite possible Israel is stepping up its demand that Trump withdraw from the nuclear agreement as a leverage for pressuring him to accept Israel’s other, more important, demands in the Iranian context, which have to do with Iranian deployment of forces and presence in Syria. Israel is trying to pressure the American administration to boost its intelligence supervision of Iran and devise a military and diplomatic plan together with Israel for the day the nuclear agreement expires.
The pressure on the Trump administration over the Iranian presence in Syria will definitely affect Russia and Syria, as well as China and the US. That pressure could also prompt the American administration to “compensate” Israel for the nuclear agreement by creating tight cooperation ahead of the day Iran resumes its nuclear race.
The conclusion is simple: Israel is taking advantage of Trump’s election promise to leverage the issues it really cares about. Knowing the Trump administration won’t walk away from the nuclear agreement with Iran, Jerusalem hopes to get something in return in much more important areas.