(Israel/Iran/USA) Returning to the Nuclear Agreement: Implications for Israel (Eldad Shavit, Sima Shine, INSS)

Senior members of the incoming US administration have stressed that they intend to advance a return by the United States to the nuclear deal with Iran, as well as a lifting of sanctions, if Iran returns to its obligations under the agreement. Iran, for its part, clarifies that there is no room for negotiation on an improved agreement, and it has already raised the level of uranium enrichment at Fordow to 20 percent, as a means of putting pressure on Biden. It appears that Israel has for the time being chosen to publicly challenge the incoming administration on its Iran policy, rather than adopting a policy that would allow it on the one hand to present legitimate reservations, and on the other to offer constructive proposals. Inter alia, Washington can be encouraged to take intermediate steps that would leave it leverage for the future, and urged to condition the removal of sanctions on an Iranian commitment to dialogue on improving the agreement. However, the more resolutely and loudly Israel opposes the administration’s policy, the more likely it is that the administration will be quick to actualize its intentions with Iran in order to establish facts on the ground. Either way, there is no point in returning to an approach that has already failed in the past, in hope for a better outcome this time. Israel’s emerging conduct and initiatives are expected to largely define the nature of relations between the two countries over time, the level of US attention to Israel’s positions, and the degree of Israel’s impact on United States strategy.