Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz has said he would back a renewed nuclear deal with Iran that included “dismantling” Iran’s capacities and “effective inspections”.

Gantz also said there must be inspections of Iran’s production facilities. Parts manufacturing is not covered by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty under which the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency inspects Iran’s nuclear plants.

Gantz told an online conference Sunday of the Israeli paper Haaretz and the University of California that he was “more optimistic than ever” given Israel’s ‘normalization’ agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco.

While these Arab states claimed recognizing the Israeli state follows the Arab Peace Initiative, launched 2002, the API hinged on Israeli recognition of Palestinian rights including statehood. Gantz said the ‘Abraham Accord’ encouraged him in the face of Iran’s efforts to “export its radical ideology” and its “disrupting democratic processes and dismantling countries,” specifically in Iraq and Lebanon.

A long New York Times piece Sunday reported concern among United States intelligence officials over past and possible future Israeli attacks on Iran’s nuclear program.

Tehran’s ‘Build Back Better’

The officials told the Times that Iran had quickly restored damage after four

Israeli attacks, which alongside killing Tehran’s nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh had led to Iran speeding-up the program, including replacing damaged machines with more advanced ones capable of faster uranium enrichment. One official called it Tehran’s ‘Build Back Better plan,” a wry reference to a slogan of President Joe Biden.

“American officials have warned their Israeli counterparts that the repeated attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities may be tactically satisfying, but they are ultimately counterproductive,” the Times reported.

Recent meetings between US and Israel officials have led to talk of a ‘plan B’ should talks in Vienna between Iran and world powers, due to resume November 29, fail to agree steps for reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

The Israeli government supported previous US president Donald Trump in leaving the JCPOA and imposing ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on Iran, but with Biden’s commitment to JCPOA revival Israel has tempered its criticism while continuing attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Times cited US and European officials rueing the Biden administration coming late to the talks in Vienna, three months after taking office, and noting that Biden continuing ‘maximum pressure’ had stiffened the approach of the new administration in Tehran that took office in August.

US looking for ‘other tools’

“Many of Mr Biden’s advisers are doubtful that introducing new sanctions on Iran’s leadership, its military or its oil trade − atop the 1,500 Mr. Trump imposed − would be any more successful than past efforts to pressure Iran to change course,” the Times noted.

This has left the Biden administration looking for a ‘plan B’ while wary of more Israeli attacks. Rob Malley, the White House’s Iran envoy said recently it was “in Iran’s hands to choose,” and that both Biden and secretary of state Antony Blinken had insisted that that “if diplomacy fails, we have other tools − and we will use other tools to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Iran immediately rejected recent reports that the US had discussed with Israel a possible interim arrangement under which Washington would rule out punitive action against some third parties paying money owed Iran in return for Tehran freezing some aspects of its nuclear program.

The nuclear talks will resume November 29 with the US in Vienna but taking part indirectly, outside the formal meetings of remaining JCPOA signatories – China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

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