Though on Friday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif decried the Biden administration’s continuation of Trump era sanctions as US “economic terrorism,” earlier in the week Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the deal was basically done and was just waiting for final sign-offs.
The EU was similarly optimistic, and Russia and China have been broadcasting optimism of a deal around the corner multiple times in recent weeks.
If this is true, it is time for Israelis to wake up.
The 2021 Gaza conflict may turn out to be the major war and peace event of 2021 for Jerusalem, but on the other hand, it resolved and changed little of the region’s dynamics.
Another name for it could be the fourth Gaza War – making it clear that this was just another round, with more rounds waiting in the future.
In contrast, a return to the JCPOA alters the course of the region permanently for the first time since the Trump administration left the deal in May 2018, and could shape the next decade of Israeli security issues, regional diplomacy with moderate Sunni Arabs and relations between Jerusalem and Washington.
It seems that the main uncertainty is the timing of the deal.
Multiple Israeli intelligence sources told The Jerusalem Post back in January that Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was dying for a deal and that all of the public playing hard to get was negotiating tactics.
Some officials suggested that possibly Khamenei merely wanted to wait to finalize the deal until after the June 18 presidential elections or until he could ensure a hardliner he supported would win that election, regardless of the deal.
If that is true, he may be able to let the deal go forward even before June 18. Or maybe after at least the Iranian Guardian Council disqualifies any possible problematic challengers.
One clear sign that Khamenei wants a deal is that he rebuffed Iran’s self-set deadlines for kicking out IAEA inspectors – absent an end to sanctions – in January and February and is poised to postpone Friday’s deadline.
When a side blows through its redlines repeatedly and its main threat to hold over the other side, it exposes how badly they want the deal, regardless of public statements.
If and when a deal is made, Jerusalem will need to work hard to get the Biden administration to make the JCPOA “longer and stronger” as it vowed it would in follow-on negotiations.
The IDF and the Mossad will need to be on constant alert for Iranian cheating and covert nuclear moves.
Also, the Jewish state will need to be ready to take action if and when the Islamic Republic crosses any lines which could take it too close to breaking out to a nuclear weapon.
Gaza is not going away and will remain a critical issue to resolve or manage.
But the Iranian nuclear issue is the one potential existential challenge to Israel’s existence and the new deal will ripple across the region and the globe.