Israeli expert Ehud Ya’ari: Iran not interested in reviving nuclear deal

August 11, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Iran is likely no longer interested in restoring a nuclear deal with the United States and other members of the P5+1, according to Ehud Ya’ari, long-time journalist, commentator and Fellow at the Washington Institute, who discussed this and many other topics as part of a recent AIJAC Online Live webinar.

Ehud Yaari Screenshot

“It is my understanding today, bordering on becoming a conviction… that Iran has taken the decision or is in the process of making a decision not to strike a deal with Mr Biden over the nuclear issue,” Ya’ari said.

Ya’ari told the online gathering that the gaps between the two sides are currently unbridgeable. The Americans understand that “nobody can go back to the 2015 deal as is, because the situation on the ground, in terms of the nuclear progress of Iran, is very different,” Ya’ari said. In contrast, “the Iranian position at this point is not a word, not a comma will be touched.”

Iran’s demands cross a lot of red lines, he added, such as its demand for assurances made to international companies that sanctions will not be reimposed for an extended period, nor snapped back, no matter what happens in regard to the nuclear program. While Biden’s negotiators have been flexible, this is not something they could accept, he said.

“Biden is not going to strike Iran,” Ya’ari added. “He may be willing to see Israel do that for him and for us [eventually].”

Also on Iran, Ya’ari identified a shift by Iran away from its doctrine of “strategic patience”, to a situation where they are acting more boldly and testing Israel’s response to attacks on Israeli-owned merchant ships and a return to sporadic rocket fire from Lebanon into northern Israel.

“Dropping strategic patience means that we would see more probably attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman and elsewhere,” Ya’ari said. “We’ve seen, all of a sudden, an attempt to ignite the Israeli Lebanese frontier. When three rockets are fired from Lebanon. It doesn’t happen because some Palestinians felt like it in the refugee camp near Tyre. It happens because Hezbollah encourages them to do that.”

Speaking further on the Palestinian issue, Ya’ari said that the Biden Administration is likely to agree with the international political consensus that the time isn’t right for renewed final status talks between Israel and the Palestinian leadership.

“Instead,” according to Ya’ari, “they are going to encourage the parties that are [already discussing ongoing security cooperation] to reach multiple small-step agreements, which combined will change the situation on the ground in the West Bank – In terms of the economic situation, in terms of movement of the Palestinian security forces generally trying to create a new atmosphere and… trying to get the Palestinian Authority [to] have some bigger say in the Gaza Strip.”


In the meantime, Ya’ari said the political situation in Ramallah remains very fragile.

“If Mr. Abbas was to retire tomorrow,” Ya’ari said, “there is no guarantee whatsoever that his movement, Fatah, the movement that signed the Oslo Accords with Israel, will remain unified. I can see an immediate split into two, three, four factions, at least, maybe many more. So the danger that [Israel’s] partner- slash-adversary in the West Bank will collapse, like so many other Arab regimes and movements, is clearly their [worry].”

Ya’ari also discussed a matter that rarely gets much news coverage – the increasing political tension between Turkey and Iran as they each seek to expand their regional influence. He identified several flashpoints across the region where Turkish- and Iranian-backed clients had aligned themselves as adversaries, including in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

“This is very important because one of the results of this … is diplomatic,” Ya’ari said. Because of the “political confrontation between Iran and Turkey… Erdogan [is] changing course – he’s seeking rapprochement with Egypt.”

Ya’ari opened with his remarks with words of optimism about the new government let by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid in Israel, which he said had “so far has been quite impressive. They managed to work together. They have managed to pass the budget, after [Israel going] several years [without one] They seem to have reached understandings on many issues on which they are basically divided ideologically. They are embarking upon some experimental reforms, for example, in the sphere of the state and religion.”

Nevertheless, when asked about the stability of the new government, Ya’ari said, according to his count, there are eight Knesset members in the 61-seat razor-thin majority coalition that cannot be relied upon to consistently vote with the government on all issues.

Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s presence in the opposition is the “glue” that is holding this diverse and shaky government together, Ya’ari suggested.


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