Israel working to convince US to push Iran for ‘no-sunset-clause’ nuke deal

The proposed plan is a deal without the 2015 JCPOA’s “sunset clauses,” which gradually lift restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani reviews Iran's new nuclear achievements during Iran's National Nuclear Energy Day in Tehran, Iran April 10, 2021. (photo credit: IRANIAN PRESIDENCY OFFICE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani reviews Iran's new nuclear achievements during Iran's National Nuclear Energy Day in Tehran, Iran April 10, 2021.
(photo credit: IRANIAN PRESIDENCY OFFICE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

With Iran nuclear talks frozen, Israel has presented the Biden administration an alternative path forward: to offer Tehran a nuclear deal in which economic sanctions would be lifted, but not the restrictions on its nuclear program.

National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata raised the idea in his meetings with his American counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington this week.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is set to meet with International Atomic Energy Agency Secretary-General Rafael Grossi in Jerusalem on Friday.

Grossi landed in Israel on Thursday evening, days before an IAEA Board of Governors meeting in which the US and the E3 – France, Great Britain and Germany – are expected to push for the body to rebuke Iran following a report by Grossi that Iran has enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon and has not provided credible explanations for the IAEA’s findings of violations.

The Western powers had hesitated to promote resolutions against Iran in recent years, in order to continue negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) south of the Iranian capital Tehran, March 30, 2005. (credit: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File Photo)A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) south of the Iranian capital Tehran, March 30, 2005. (credit: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File Photo)

However, talks have stalled in recent months, in part due to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s success in their effort to convince US President Joe Biden not to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Biden informed Bennett of the decision a month ago, but it became public last week.

The proposal that Hulata presented to Sullivan – which Israel plans to present to the E3 – would be a deal without the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s “sunset clauses,” which gradually lift restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

What is the new clause and why is it better?

The purpose of Hulata’s trip was to present the idea and start a conversation about it with the Americans ahead of Biden’s trip to Jerusalem later this month. Bennett hopes to use the president’s visit to Israel to convince him of the necessity to keep the pressure on Iran and to make a no-sunset-clause deal the new objective.

Under the newly proposed Israeli plan, the Iranians would receive sanctions relief as stipulated in the 2015 deal, if they accept the new version without a sunset clause.

What should happen to Iran?

Israel has proposed that if Iran were to accept a new deal without lifting nuclear restrictions, it would include what is being described as a “tripwire” in the event that Iran would enrich uranium to 90%, the level needed for a nuclear weapon. Iran has already enriched uranium to 60%.

In that case, Israel would like to see the US commit to immediately imposing even more sanctions on Iran than it has on Russia in the wake of the war in Ukraine, what a senior Israeli official called “MOAB sanctions” – meaning “mother of all bombs.”

The Prime Minister’s Office denied the proposal.

“The Iranians are weaker than they seem,” a senior Israeli defense official explained this week

They are more vulnerable than they are made out to be.

Senior Israeli defense official

The Islamic Republic has been hit with countrywide riots in recent weeks over rising food prices. In addition, protests broke out in southwest Iran after a building collapsed there, killing 31 people. An emissary sent to the site by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was shouted down by local protesters.

The White House readout of their meeting, in which they convened the US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group with senior representatives of both countries’ foreign policy, defense and intelligence agencies, said they “committed to coordinate on efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and toward deterring Iran’s aggressive regional activities.

“They also discussed economic and diplomatic steps to achieve these goals, and reviewed ongoing cooperation between the US and Israeli militaries,” the statement reads. “The US and Israeli officials committed that, working toward the same goal, they will remain in close coordination on the full range of issues of mutual interest and to remain united against all threats to their national security.”

Despite world powers and Iran coming close to an agreement early this year, talks to revive the JCPOA were derailed after Russia invaded Ukraine, and remained on hold in recent months, in light of Iran’s demand that the IRGC be removed from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.