Washington and Tel Aviv’s threats against Iran are rapidly proliferating. The Israelis reportedly just approved a $1.5 billion budget for a possible military attack on Iran. Israel’s Air Force is currently training “intensely” to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Under Joe Biden’s watch, the Iranian people continue to be crushed under the same cruel “maximum pressure” sanctions imposed by the Donald Trump administration. In fact, on multiple occasions, Biden has imposed new sanctions on Iran. The ceaseless economic warfare is justified by the lie that Iran was or is seeking nuclear weapons as well as the ever present ancillary alarmism that this would imperil Israel.
Apartheid Israel has maintained nuclear weapons for decades, numbering perhaps hundreds. Worryingly, Americans aware of the Israeli nuclear arsenal are significantly outnumbered by their fellow citizens who believe Iran possesses (nonexistent) nukes. Washington and Tel Aviv have a long tradition of cynically pretending Israel does not have these weapons. The corporate press makes no efforts to rectify this crisis of ignorance. The Israelis exploit this public relations luxury by warning that Iran acquiring a bomb is a unique evil that would lead to a “nuclear arms race” in the Middle East.
Along with other officials, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi threaten to attack Iran on a regular basis. In August, before speaking with Biden in Washington, Bennet remarked to the New York Times that he would implore Washington against returning to the nuclear deal and share his “strategic vision” for Iran which consists of more “clandestine attacks” and “the gray area stuff.” During a joint press conference with Bennet, Biden warned the U.S. will “turn to other options” if “diplomacy fails.” The Islamic Republic denounced this as an illegal threat against their country, adding it “establishes Iran’s right to reciprocate…against ‘available options.’”
Recently, Bennet threatened Iran again, saying “we’re not going to wait,” emphasizing there are “other routes” besides the “peaceful route.” The current sanctions campaign is an act of war, the status quo is anything but a “peaceful route.” He proclaimed the Iranians were ”…blatantly violating the IAEA commitments.” But Israel, unlike Iran, is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which both makes U.S. aid to Israel illegal and of course leaves Tel Aviv subject to no International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Whereas Iran, under the deal, is acting within its rights by ceasing voluntarily compliance with the so-called Additional Protocol, an aspect of the deal which permits snap IAEA inspections. This decision was made by Tehran to build leverage for sanctions relief and as a protest to Israeli sabotage against Iran’s nuclear program. Incidentally, the IAEA has not condemned the sabotage.
For months, Israeli officials have been calling for the U.S. to enact what they refer to as “Plan B.” Israel demands that Washington eschew the diplomatic track outright and levy more sanctions, thereby escalating the economic war against Iran. To some extent, the U.S. already seems to be doing this by targeting more sanctions against foreign companies and individuals accused of facilitating oil exports to East Asia, a vital lifeline for Iran’s long strangled economy. In July, a U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal that because there is not much remaining in Iran that Washington has not already sanctioned, these oil sales to China are “the prize.” Tel Aviv has also reportedly presented Biden’s administration with a plan for Iran described as “death by a thousand cuts,” a series of successive diplomatic and economic attacks against the Islamic Republic.
The Israelis argue the multilateral indirect talks—which hope to see the U.S. reenter into the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA)—have already failed. If they have failed, it is due to the dreadful continuity in American foreign policy. Biden, known for decades as “Israel’s man in Washington,” has refused to lift all of his predecessor Donald Trump’s sanctions. Worse still, it is now being reported that the Americans have made clear if Iran returns to the deal, even assuming their full compliance, sanctions may still be imposed and reimposed during this presidential term’s remainder. The talks began in April with the latest round finishing June 20, coinciding with the new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s election. Though presented as hardliners, Iran’s current administration has said repeatedly that they soon intend to return to the negotiation table. The talks are expected to begin again next month.
Indeed, the Iranians have responded to American and Israeli hostility by expanding their nuclear program outside the parameters set by the JCPOA, including by increasing uranium enrichment and building their stockpile. They are permitted to do so under Articles 26 and 36 of the deal which state that Iran, if the other parties have done so, may walk back their commitments. The U.S. as well as the Europeans, for fear of secondary sanctions, have left their obligations woefully unfulfilled. And as far as the growing stockpile is concerned, this is a result largely of the fact that the U.S. policy prevents Iranian exports of their nuclear material. These Iranian moves are quite simply negotiating tactics obviously meant to induce some substantive diplomacy on the part of the Americans and to discourage further Israeli attacks.
The Israelis’ covert sabotage campaign against Iran ramped up tensions at times when international stability was crucially needed. The Israelis attacked an Iranian cargo ship in the Red Sea after the talks in Vienna were announced. Following the commencement of said talks in April, Israel then attacked the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, causing an explosion, damaging centrifuges, and power outages. Natanz is Iran’s main center for building centrifuges and enriching uranium. As the last round of talks, in June, wound down, the Israelis sent delegations to Washington to discuss Iran. Reportedly, they concurrently attacked, with a drone, the Karaj centrifuge building site. This attack caused damage to the IAEA’s cameras and the ceiling of an industrial shed, necessitating a roof replacement. These attacks are never condemned by Washington. Contrarily, Blinken appears to have endorsed them. If Biden and the Democrats truly wish to return to JCPOA negotiated by Biden’s old boss, Barack Obama, this is an Israeli sabotage campaign to overrule that policy.
Tel Aviv is also constantly attacking Iran’s allies. This past summer, Israel launched airstrikes in Lebanon. Israel frequently bombs Syria as well. Though they are usually killing Shi’ite militiamen and Syrian Arab Army soldiers, when they rarely acknowledge their countless bombings of Syria they always claim to be targeting Iran. Israel bombed the country hundreds of times during the war and continues to do so on an almost weekly basis, sometimes multiple times per week. The Russians protest though they cannot seem to put a stop to the unrelenting assaults against its ally in Damascus. When the U.S. bombed Iraqi militias in Syria, sitting in the oval office next to his Israeli counterpart, Biden boasted that it was a message to Iran.
The Iranians are not enriching uranium to weapons grade levels, which are 90 percent or higher. Nor is there is evidence of them doing so previously. They are converting some enriched uranium tetrafluoride to uranium metal to make fuel plates for use in the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). The 54 year-old reactor was built by the U.S. back when Washington’s puppet dictator, the Shah Reza Pahlavi, ruled Iran. As a direct result of U.S. sanctions, this reactor, which uses 20% enriched uranium is critical for Iran’s nuclear medicine.
The Iranians are also enriching some uranium hexafluoride to 60 percent in small amounts purely as a protest to the Israeli covert attack campaign and American sanctions. This is both legal under the NPT and completely supervised by the IAEA. Tehran’s actions were ordered by the parliament and provoked by the Israelis’ killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and the above-noted attack on the Natanz facility. The Iranians have no use for uranium enriched above 60% and presumably will dilute that material after they have made their point or receive sanctions relief. By pointing to Iran’s nuclear expansion without providing proper context, the hawks have built a rather convenient propaganda device.
Building on the Abraham Accords, Israeli hawks and their American friends desire for Israel a NATO style alliance to target Iran and its allies. But the Abraham Accords were not peace deals between the Arabs and the Israelis as they were sold to the American public. American and Israeli allies, armed to the teeth, encircle Iran. The Palestinians suffering under Israel’s apartheid and occupation were thrown under the bus while the arms industry got some huge welfare in the form of U.S. brokered deals with authoritarian regimes.
However, there is a sea change afoot. The U.S. is still sloppy drunk on imperial hubris and seems to be making good on its promises to pivot to Asia, the “Indo Pacific.” At the same time, major actors across the Middle East are interpreting America’s Afghanistan withdrawal as anything but a one off. For the time being, it appears that diplomacy is breaking out amongst longtime rivals including even between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iran maintains strong relationships with Moscow as well as Beijing and they recently joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Moreover, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar were brought onboard as “dialogue partners.” As more influence is gained by China and Russia in the region, it is less likely America’s beloved Gulf dictatorships will attack and threaten war with Iran. If the U.S. reenters the JCPOA and begins earnestly reducing its Middle East footprint, Israel will likely back down. Tel Aviv should avoid war with Iran, favoring good business ties with China albeit over the American protests. The Israelis will finally have to drop the act, quit pretending Iran is threatening them, and give up this long coveted war.
Iran was never seeking nukes. The nuclear deal itself was a way of taking that war off the table. Iran has remained in the JCPOA even after the U.S. unilaterally broke its commitments, abrogated itself from the deal, reimposed sanctions, bombed its allies in Iraq, and assassinated Iran’s top General Qasem Soleimani at the Baghdad International Airport.
The Israelis have been cashing in on this big phony Iran threat since the Clinton era. In 1987, then Defense Minister and later Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Iran is Israel’s “best friend.” Israel took Tehran’s side in the Iran-Iraq War. But after the Cold War, the Israelis badly needed an excuse to justify its “special relationship” with the Americans. Israel deliberately turned Iran into an enemy and made sure the U.S. Empire never normalized relations with the Islamic Republic. Ironically, this betrayal of an old friend was Rabin’s idea.
In the book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, author Scott Horton details this shift in policy;
…Israel was also worried that the U.S. and Iran had too many things in common, such as hatred of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Taliban’s Afghanistan, and, of course, the oil business. America could end up leaning back toward their old ally and put Israel’s interests on the back burner. So the Israelis feared a U.S.-Iran dialog more than Iran itself. Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Efraim Sneh explained, “We were against [U.S.-Iranian] dialogue… because the interests of the U.S. did not coincide with ours.” AIPAC and other pro-Israel organizations made a massive and successful push for the dual containment policy [of Iran and Iraq] and new sanctions against Iran, at Rabin’s insistence, to hedge against any second thoughts or new overtures. They were seeming to insist on being enemies with Iran by self-fulfilling prophecy.
Attacking Iran covertly and thwarting Uncle Sam’s return to the JCPOA serves the same old purposes. The perpetual cold war with Iran provides a convenient common enemy to be shared by Washington and Tel Aviv. This helps justify billions in military and financial aid the American people are forced each year to fork over to Israel and the arms industry.
As Dave DeCamp, news editor at Antiwar.com, has written,
If the Israelis really cared about Tehran’s enrichment levels, it would favor a US return to the JCPOA since would limit Iran’s enrichment level to 3.67 percent. But instead, the Israelis are pressuring the US not to return to the JCPOA and are constantly threatening military action.
Beyond the trillions spent on the Iraq war, countless American and Iraqi families paid for it all with their children’s lives. Along with thousands of American troops, more than a million Iraqis were killed. Iraq was a paralyzed, bombed out, starved, blockaded country lacking an air force, a navy, and anti-aircraft weapons. With approximately 80 million people, Iran’s population dwarves Iraq. Iran has a strong ballistic missile deterrent, a formidable military, as well as extensive asymmetrical defensive capabilities and allies scattered across the region well within range of U.S. forces, assets, and allies. This would be a catastrophic, illegal war based on lies. War is not an option.
The American people must demand Biden lift the sanctions and return to the JCPOA unilaterally without conditions. The Iranians have said if they receive a U.S. guarantee that they will not withdraw from the JCPOA again, as they did in 2018, and they can verify sanctions relief they will immediately resume full compliance with the deal. Diplomacy is the only way to rectify this impasse. If that is not good enough for the Israelis and their American partisans, too bad.