Pressure on Biden administration to stop Iran Deal will damage relations with Israel, expert says

Mossad chief David Barnea’s visit to Washington is one more Israeli effort in a long line of attempts to stop the US from signing an agreement with Iran.

 US President Joe Biden adjusts his glasses as he delivers remarks during a signing event for the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, US, August 9, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/EVELYN HOCKSTEIN)
US President Joe Biden adjusts his glasses as he delivers remarks during a signing event for the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, US, August 9, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/EVELYN HOCKSTEIN)

First Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and national security adviser Eyal Hulata tried. It is now the turn of Israel’s top spy to try to convince the Biden Administration that a revamped Iran nuclear deal is bad for Israel.

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Mossad chief David Barnea arrived in Washington on Sunday and was supposed to meet with senior US officials involved in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations, to present Israel’s position on the matter. Barnea had planned to attend a Senate Intelligence Committee meeting, but the committee will not be meeting this week. Barnea is arriving in the US a week after he publicly criticized the agreement forming between Iran and the Biden administration, calling it a “strategic disaster” and a “done deal.”

Barnea’s visit to Washington is one more Israeli effort in a long line of attempts to stop the US from signing an agreement with Iran. But Israel’s ability to put a halt to the deal is nearly non-existent, experts say.

“Israel’s ability to impact the agreement is minor. At this point, everyone knows that no matter who is in power in Israel it will always be against an agreement. Nobody understands why Israel is so against it, but at least there is some respect for official representatives like Barnea,” Professor Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli deputy national advisor, told The Media Line, adding: “There’s a limit to how many times people on Capitol Hill will be willing to hear the same broken record.”

 Mossad chief David Barnea attends a ceremony marking Remembrance Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 3, 2022.  (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Mossad chief David Barnea attends a ceremony marking Remembrance Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 3, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Freilich, who was Israel’s deputy national adviser during the negotiations for the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also was part of the Israeli dialogue team that went to the US in 2003 ahead of the Second Gulf War. He admits that Israel’s efforts are better constructed this time.

“I think (former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and (Prime Minister Yair) Lapid did manage to run this campaign efficiently yet respectfully. They didn’t cause the damages (former Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu did to the bilateral relations with the Obama Administration back in 2015. He still refers to his speech in Congress as a historic event and he’s right – it was a historical catastrophe,” Freilich said.

When asked what Israel may be trying to achieve in its consistent efforts to have an impact on the deal, Freilich explains there are three main goals.

“The first is to delay the deal as much as possible. The second is to prevent the International Atomic Energy Agency from closing the investigations against Iran, which never would have happened anyway, because that would brand the IAEA as completely useless for good. The third is to make sure sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps remain in place, which President Biden decided to do anyway, for his own reasons,” Freilich said.

As negotiations continue, it is becoming more apparent that Iran may not be happy about reentering the agreement.

“Iran is dragging its feet right now, because not being committed to an agreement is, in a way, convenient to the regime,” Dr. Menahem Merhavy, an expert on modern Iran at the Harry S. Truman Institute at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told The Media Line. “The public wants the sanctions to be lifted, but that would expose the truth: that the Iranian economy is devastated not only because of the sanctions, but because of corruption. From this perspective, the regime has a lot to lose from a new agreement. And meanwhile, the opposers to the agreement appear more patriotic in Iran and gain support from the street,” he explained.

The Iranian economy has deteriorated dramatically since the Trump Administration imposed US sanctions in 2018, but the regime is still considered stable, and protests are few.

Merhavy, like most experts who have spoken recently with The Media Line, also believes that a nuclear-armed Iran is only a matter of time. He does not, however, believe it’s the end of Israel.

“The regime realizes that using nuclear weapons means the complete destruction of Iran. They’re not suicidal,” he said. “Nobody thinks Iran is seriously going to throw a nuclear bomb on Israel. It wants to have nuclear capabilities, and it wants everyone to know it has those capabilities, to upgrade its status in the region.”

He added: “I hope someone in the security system is preparing for the day Iran has military nuclear capabilities. This doesn’t mean Iran will try to take over the Middle East with its nuclear weapon when it has one, only that Israel must recognize that day is probably coming.”