What happened: The head of Mossad, David Barnea, pledged yesterday that “Iran will not have nuclear weapons, not in the coming years, not ever. That is my personal commitment, that is Mossad’s commitment”.
- Barnea was speaking at a ceremony at the President’s Residence, honouring outstanding Mossad agents. In a rare public statement, he related to the nuclear negotiations saying: “A bad agreement, which I hope will not be reached, is intolerable. Iran is striving for regional hegemony, engaging in terrorism that we block on a daily basis all over the world, and continuously threatening the stability of the Middle East. Therefore, our eyes are open, we are prepared, and together with our colleagues in the security establishment, we will do whatever is necessary to keep the threat to the State of Israel at bay and to thwart it by any means. Iran will not have nuclear weapons, not in the next few years, not ever. That is my commitment, and the Mossad’s.”
- Also yesterday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett discussed the issue in a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Bennett reportedly said, “Iran is carrying out nuclear blackmail as a negotiating tactic, and this should be answered by the immediate halt to negotiations and the implementation of tough steps by the world powers.”
- Blinken described the call as, “good and detailed,” stating, “We have exactly the same strategic objectives: We are both determined to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”
- Blinken added, the US, “will continue to be in very close contact with Israel, as well as with other concerned countries including in the Gulf, about the status of the talks.”
Context: As the talks in Vienna entered their fourth day there has been no signs of agreement, with the sides still far apart. Blinken said, “recent moves, recent rhetoric, don’t give us a lot of cause for optimism.” However, “it is not too late for Iran to reverse course and engage meaningfully”.
- During the talks this week, Iran presented two draft documents for the removal of sanctions and to preserve elements of their nuclear programme.
- Meanwhile Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani continues to insist “all sanctions to be lifted at once.”
- Iranian mediators continue to blame Israel for the lack of progress being made. The spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry tweeted: “As Vienna talks advances, Israeli regime shows its true colour again, calling for immediate halt of negotiations. Not surprising. Dialogue is always despised by the regime whose genesis is based on war, tension & terror.”
- In parallel, earlier this week the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed more details of Iran enrichment programme, which includes uranium to up to 20 percent purity with one cluster of 166 advanced IR-6 machines at Fordow.
- According to the agreement, Iran is not allowed to enrich uranium at Fordow at all. The IR-6 are significantly more advanced than their older IR-1’s.
- The IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi acknowledged that Iran is enriching uranium at 5, 20 and 60 per cent but not 90.
- Also yesterday, Defence Minister Benny Gantz related to additional military procurements plan. He told Ynet: “We must prepare ourselves for any possibility to defend the State of Israel. We are developing capabilities and need to keep strengthening them.”
- In parallel to the unusual statements from the head of Mossad, the Jewish Chronicle revealed new details of Mossad sabotage of Iran’s nuclear programme over the last year.
- Secretary Blinken has suggested than the US will know “in the next day or so,” whether Iran is serious about reviving the nuclear deal.