With Joe Biden now officially being the President of the United States, many Americans are shifting their attention to Iran. During the Trump administration, plenty of changes were made to US relationships with both Iran and Israel. As of January 21, 2021, things are much different from when Trump took office in January of 2017. It’s safe to say both Israel and Iran have been patiently waiting to see what the next four years will bring.
Jerusalem’s warns that a US return to previous terms of the nuclear deal with Iran by the Biden administration can lead to a relationship crisis between Israel and the United States.
President Biden has been clear that he intends on returning to the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran.
Tehran is ruling out any halt to its missile program or making regional policy changes.
Conservatives were not ok with agreements made between the Obama administration and Iran. Those on the Liberal side have had plenty of issues with Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the Middle East powerhouse. People on both sides have a growing place in their hearts for Israel. It seems Israel has been left on the sideline waiting for lines to be drawn.
On Wednesday, Israeli television reported Jerusalem’s warning that a US return to previous terms of the nuclear deal with Iran by the Biden administration can lead to a relationship crisis between Israel and the United States. According to the Times of Israel, “a very senior Israeli official” has said, “If Biden adopts Obama’s plan, we will have nothing to talk about with him.” The official’s reference was to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action(JCPOA) signed in 2015 by President Obama.
The day before the comments were made by the Israeli official, Antony Blinken, nominee for Secretary of State for the Biden administration made a pledge to senators during his confirmation hearing that he will engage with both Israel and its Arab allies before making a return to the JCPOA. Ron Dermer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ambassador to the US, called then President-elect Biden to do this several weeks ago.
President Biden has been clear that he intends on a JCPOA return, but an agreement can only be made with Iran returning to compliance with the deal first. Biden has also said he plans on entering subsequent negotiations to reach a “longer and stronger” agreement with Tehran. This will also address the ballistic missile program and regional hegemony. As good as these intentions may or may not be, Iran is saying they’re not interested in making any subsequent agreements. They have also warned they will not be making any return to compliance with the JCPOA until the United States lifts the sanctions that have been put in place by the previous administration against Tehran.
How to approach Iran?
It is believed the premier is supporting an approach that is far more confrontational to handling the plan put in place by Biden to reenter the JCPOA. There are others in the security establishment arguing they would be better off trying to keep disputes with the Biden administration behind closed doors and trying to influence him to be as tough as needed on Iran, even if a return to the deal is made.
The Biden administration was urged by Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, to return to the nuclear agreement that was made in 2015. Also, he’s wanting sanctions placed on Tehran to be lifted. Rouhani said, “The ball is in the US court now,” during a televised cabinet meeting. If Washington returns to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, we will also fully respect our commitments under the pact.”
Tensions have been growing between Washington and Tehran since 2018. Trump walked away from the deal with Iran and six other world powers wanting to limit Tehran’s nuclear program. The intentions were to prevent the development of atomic weapons. The sanctions that followed have dealt a devastating blow to Iran’s economy. Denying they were seeking to develop nuclear arms, Iran retaliated to the “maximum pressure” policy by slowly breaching the accord. Tehran has said multiple times the violations can easily be reversed with the removal of US sanctions.
It’s believed Biden sees a return to the deal as a prelude to broader discussions with Iran. This includes their activities throughout the region, nuclear work, as well as talk in regards to their ballistic missiles. Currently, Tehran is ruling out any halt to its missile program or making regional policy changes.
Can Iran be Trusted?
On Saturday, January 16, 2021, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran took part in a military exercise.Anti-warship ballistic missiles were launched at a simulated target in the Indian Ocean. This happened even with the heightened tensions concerning Tehran’s nuclear program and a pressured US campaign against the Islamic Republic.
Two missiles were shown smashing into their target, described as “hypothetical hostile enemy ships” on Iranian state television. The missiles were accurate from 1,800 kilometers, around 1,100 miles. With this range,Israeli targets would be well within striking distance.
Major General Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, was quoted as saying, “Long-range missiles for maritime targets indicates that if the enemies… show any ill will towards our national interests, maritime trade routes or territory, they will be targeted and destroyed by our missiles.”
Iran has recently been increasing its military drills. On Wednesday, January 13, Iran’s navy took part in a short-range missile drill in the Gulf of Oman. On January 9, a naval parade was held in the Persian Gulf by the Revolutionary Guard. The week before, half of Iran witnessed a massive drone maneuver. According to Iranian Air Force chief, Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, “Tehran had plans to unveil new drone achievements in the near future.”
Tehran has also announced this month that it will enrich uranium up to 20 percent. They also plan to begin researching the production of uranium metals. These announcements are in major violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. They enact parts of an Iranian parliamentary vote recently taking place. The vote also included a resolution of Israel’s destruction.
How Should the United States Respond?
Senator Ted Cruz tells Israel Hayom, “I fear we are headed into a dangerous chapter with the Biden-Harris administration, working actively to undermine the national security gains made in the last four years, and to reinvigorate the ayatollahs in Iran, which poses an existential threat to Israel.”
A lot is hanging in the balance of the new administration’s involvement with Iran and Israel. Britain, France, and Germany are at odds with Iran right now. All over who’s failed to enforce the JCPOA since the US walked away from the deal in 2018. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drain,have gone back and forth concerning Iran building up nuclear weapons and arms sales to Saudi war criminals.
Either way, the new administration leans, someone will get their feelings hurt. Is it time for the US to wipe a few slates clean and start over? Our country needs to choose wisely who we consider friends and who is being looked at as the enemy. The United States is better off supporting Israel as Iran does not have its interest.
Jeffrey‘s a senior writer with ThinkCivics and a freelance journalist with The Jerusalem Post. He’s a published author, earned an associate’s degree in theology, and is pursuing a master’s degree in communications with a focus on journalism.