When he originally ran for office, former President Donald Trump made a grand show of how he would rip up the so-called Iran nuclear deal, which was implemented by the Obama Administration, as soon as he got into the White House.
Upon becoming president, Trump promptly did so, but now, Joe Biden and his team are working to reverse that policy and resurrect the old agreement, which is known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not happy about this at all and has forcefully challenged Secretary of State Antony Blinken on this matter.
Netanyahu Slams Blinken and the JCPOA
During a duel press conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday, May 25, at which both Blinken and Netanyahu were present, Netanyahu forcefully ripped into the idea of rejoining the JCPOA or any similar agreement.
Netanyahu’s greatest concern was the possibility that the old Obama-era agreement was too lax on Iran and would enable the country to eventually build a nuclear weapon, with which it would threaten Israel.
“We discussed many regional issues, but none is greater than Iran,” Netanyahu said, referring to his discussions with Blinken and other Biden Administration officials. “And I can tell you that I hope the United States will not go back to the old JCPOA because we believe that that deal paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy.”
Supporters of the deal, like Harvard Professor of International Relations Stephen Walt, insist that had the JCPOA remained in force, Iran would have been prevented from getting a nuclear weapon for the next 15 years, not emboldened into building one. Walt and others have insisted that the deal required Iran to give up a substantial portion of its enriched uranium and to submit to regular UN inspections of its nuclear facilities. It only allowed Iran to enrich uranium for civilian purposes like nuclear power plants, which use uranium that is substantially less enriched than what would be needed for a bomb.
While Blinken did not respond directly to Netanyahu’s remarks, he did defend the wisdom of the old agreement. Blinken likely had things like those mentioned above in mind when he said that returning to the old nuclear agreement would help “put the nuclear problem back in the box.”
Netanyahu and other supporters of Israel have countered these criticisms by saying that, given Iran’s role in funding terrorism around the world, it cannot be relied upon to honor its commitments, no matter what the particular terms of any deal may formally stipulate. Netanyahu insisted that “whatever happens, Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself against a regime committed to our destruction.”
Blinken expressed an interest in negotiating with Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials over what he called “a return to violence” between Israelis and Palestinians, but there are indications that the Biden Administration is likely to take a more pro-Palestinian stand in the conflict.
However, he insisted that he wants to make sure that “Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance.”
Those already familiar with the general behavior of the Biden Administration can draw their own conclusions about what this means.