US Secreatry of State Antony Blinken meeting Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. March 27, 2022

US Secreatry of State Antony Blinken meeting Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. March 27, 2022

US Closer To Admitting Failure Of Iran Talks, Israelis Say


As Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata visited Washington to discuss Iran, Tehran media remained conspicuously silent on the nuclear issue on Tuesday.

Economic crisis and rising prices have dominated news and discussion in Iranian media, while the government often tries to persuade the public that the talks to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, JCPOA, are not completely dead.

Negative news on the talks would be very harmful to the government’s effort to defend the battered local currency, which is tethering on the edge of another precipitous fall. Annual inflation, already above 40 percent, could completely get out of hand if the rial crosses the 300,000 threshold against the US dollar. It currently trades close to 280,000.

Another possible political damage for the Islamic Republic in the diplomatic stalemate is being blamed by the hard-pressed population desperate for relief from US sanctions.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman on Monday called for some sort of renewal of the nuclear talks, telling the public that Europeans, Russia and China have no objection to an agreement and only Washington is delaying the process.

As Tehran prefers positive news on the talks, international and Israeli media have a completely different interpretation of the current diplomatic stalemate. Israel Hayom newspaper and Kan public broadcaster said on Tuesday that the Biden administration is approaching the point of admitting the failure of the one-year-old talks in Vienna.

Whether these reports are based on information received from Hulata’s meetings in Washington or is the opinion of other Israeli officials, it seems the United States and Israel are more seriously discussing “a plan B”. Axios reported on Mondaythat the Biden team is already preparing for the contingency that the nuclear talks will fail, and Israel is pushing for a discussion of a Plan B, which would mean putting more pressure on Tehran.

Although former President Donald Trump imposed maximum pressure sanctions on Iran, the consensus among observers is that the Biden administration has relaxed their enforcement. Even Iranian officials who like to boast about their ability to circumvent restrictions and increase oil exports, sometimes admit that lax enforcement has helped their cause.

A Plan B by Israel and the United Sates could mean revamping the economic pressures, but it could also mean brandishing a military threat in case Tehran decides to play nuclear brinksmanship. Then, there is the issue of confronting Iran’s ability to use its proxy forces in the region to put counter-pressure on the US and its allies.

Iran insists that all Trump sanctions, including those imposed for terrorist related activities should be removed before it agrees to a nuclear agreement. The foremost among these sanctions is the designation of the Revolutionary Guard, IRGC as a terrorist organization by the United States. At what point Tehran would realize that a US and Israeli Plan B is coming and would retreat from its maximalist demands, is not clear, but it has invested a lot of political capital into saying it would never agree to anything less. A retreat would not only be domestically embarrassing but also would inflict some credibility damage among allies and proxies in the region.

An Israeli official told Israel Hayom, “The possibility that the parties sign an agreement in the foreseeable future is dwindling at an exponential rate,” and the Biden administration is increasingly willing to admit it.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told Hulata on Monday that “the United States is attuned to Israel’s concerns about threats to its security, including first and foremost from Iran and Iranian-backed proxies.”

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