Lapid calls latest draft of Iran nuclear deal "unacceptable"

The Israeli prime minister re-emphasises his rejection of the new text to reactivate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, while Josep Borrell urges the parties to reach an agreement before the end of the summer

AP/DEBBIE HILL  -   Lapid on Wednesday called on US President Joe Biden and Western powers to cancel an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, saying they are letting Tehran manipulate the terms and that a deal would reward Israel's enemies

16 months of complicated negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Europe's desire to place value on the strategy of "good practices in international mediation and in the fight against nuclear proliferation" - as Pol Morillas, Director of the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) explained - culminated in Vienna at the beginning of August with the presentation of the "final text" for the reactivation of the nuclear pact by Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. 

However, regional hostilities and fears over the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons - something that seems closer every day - and destabilising the Middle East, have firmly positioned countries such as Israel against the deal

"Israel is not against any agreement. We are against this deal because it is a bad deal. It cannot be accepted as it is written right now," Yair Lapid, the Israeli prime minister, pointed out during a press conference for foreign media in Jerusalem. 

AP/KAMRAN JEBREILI - According to Israel, Iran uses more than a billion dollars a year to fund its proxies in the region, which it identifies as the Hezbollah Islamic movements in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories, as well as the Houthi militias in Yemen and its own militias operating in Syria

The EU's "final offer" is "unacceptable" because it does not prevent the Ayatollahs' regime from becoming a "nuclear state", he said, and would allow Tehran to "undermine regional stability and promote terrorism" with the financial amounts it now uses to cope with Western sanctions. This amount is estimated to be close to 100 billion dollars a year, which the Persian country could use to finance - in a more forceful manner - related groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, or the Houthi militias in Yemen. 

In Lapid's view, the new proposed text is just further evidence that the G5+1 powers (Germany, China, France, the United Kingdom and Russia, and - indirectly after it unilaterally left the pact in 2018 - the United States) have succumbed to Iranian demands. Tehran "is again making new demands, and the negotiators are ready to make concessions again", the Iranian prime minister said. "The Western countries draw a red line, the Iranians ignore it, and the red line eventually moves".

AP/VAHID SALEMI - Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks at a briefing at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, June 11, 2022. Iran said on Tuesday (16 August) it submitted a "written response" to what has been described as a final roadmap to restore its shattered nuclear deal with world powers
Washington, Tehran and Tel Aviv: a tricky balance

In the face of what appears to be an imminent deal, Tel Aviv's diplomatic efforts to prevent it have intensified. In recent days, the Israeli leader has not only met with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, but also with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and has held "almost daily talks" with the British authorities. Now, the latest effort seems to come with the announcement of Benny Gantz, the Hebrew defence minister, who has announced his trip to the United States this Thursday, where he will meet with his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and the commander of the US Central Command, General Michael Kurilla.

In this scenario, the relations of the two historic partners will have to cope with the tensions provoked by the nuclear talks. "We have an open dialogue with the US administration on all issues of disagreement," said Lapid, while acknowledging his intention to "influence the agreement". Meanwhile, US officials stressed that the return of the nuclear deal is the "most effective" way to ensure regional security in the Middle East. 

REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS - Lapid called the emerging deal a "bad deal" and suggested that Biden has not respected the red lines he had previously promised to set

"Israel has deep concerns about Iran's nuclear programme. We continue to believe that a mutual return to the nuclear deal is the most effective way to address those concerns," State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a press briefing. "The president, Joe Biden, remains firmly committed to Israel's ability to deter its enemies and (...) that Iran will never obtain nuclear weapons," a White House press release said.

"In added time"

"We have days left. A few days. Because after the summer is over we will enter a different political dynamic", warned Josep Borrell on Wednesday, since, according to the European representative, resuming negotiations after the summer period could become a "very difficult" task. "Negotiations are always decided in added time".

PHOTO/ Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS - File photo. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian meets with European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell during his visit to Tehran, Iran, June 25, 2022

The "final text", according to Borrell, includes the consensus of "a very important part", but the "fringes" that are still up in the air - he acknowledged - "could wreck the final agreement". This pact "will not fix everything, but the world will be a much safer place, and Iranian citizens will be in better economic conditions", said the High Representative, who pointed out that Iran's return to the international oil market would be beneficial for all parties, making it an alternative offer to Russian crude. 

The points of the new agreement

The ball is now out of Washington's court after the Iranian government announced on Wednesday that it already has the US response to its proposal for the reactivation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, the controversial Iranian demand for guarantees of the pact's validity through a mechanism that would compensate Tehran if the future US president abandons the treaty - as Donald Trump did in 2018 - still seems to be on the table.

AFP/AFP - Map of Iran with major known nuclear facilities

And that, according to statements by a senior US official reported by CNN, in recent days Tehran has waived the closure of an investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into the origin of traces of uranium found in 2019 at undeclared sites, and the removal of the Revolutionary Guard Corps from the US State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations

"Iran has started studying the US observations, and after the review, Tehran will present its point of view to the coordinator," the European Union, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Naser Kanani said in a statement.

Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.