The New Iran Deal Exposes the Weaknesses of the Old One

Feb. 21 2022

The 2015 agreement to restrain the Islamic State’s nuclear program—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—promised to keep the ayatollahs at least a year away from being able to produce a bomb for the subsequent fifteen years. While the JCPOA was deeply flawed, the new version currently being negotiated in Vienna is apt to achieve even less. In a clear explication of the technical details, Andrea Stricker writes:

Why can’t a revised JCPOA push Iran’s breakout time back up to twelve months? The answer revolves around gas centrifuges, the machines integral to the process of enriching uranium. Iran’s centrifuges have continually grown in number and capability. The JCPOA did not stop this advance, and the Iranian regime has ruled out additional restrictions.

Prior to the JCPOA, the breakout time was a matter of weeks. The JCPOA temporarily increased Iran’s breakout time by limiting the size of its stockpile of enriched uranium and constraining the purity level of uranium the regime could produce. The deal also put temporary restrictions on the regime’s use of faster centrifuges—initially, Tehran could only use its slowest model, the IR-1. Since the clerical regime began openly violating the accord in mid-2019, its breakout time has dropped back to a similar range.

Iran was able to reduce its breakout time so quickly because the JCPOA did not force it to discard or destroy its more advanced centrifuges, it required only that they be put in storage. The machines were kept under international monitoring but remained available for rapid deployment at a time of the regime’s choosing. Moreover, Iran could likely have redeployed these machines in only a few months. As part of any new deal, the Biden administration and its European allies will reportedly permit Tehran to retain in storage—not destroy—hundreds of new advanced centrifuges it produced in violation of the JCPOA.

By 2031, when all JCPOA restrictions on uranium enrichment terminate, the deal itself will have paved Iran’s pathway to the nuclear threshold. Thus, any “JCPOA-minus” that the Biden administration finalizes ultimately does little to address the Islamic Republic’s nuclear threat.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Nuclear proliferation, U.S. Foreign policy

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia