Netanyahu’s Iran Challenge Is Helping Trump Fix or Scrap Deal

TEL AVIV (Bloomberg News/TNS) -

Israel is wasting no time in trying to translate Donald Trump’s call for a tougher approach to Iran into action.

The government is making a diplomatic push to extend restrictions in the international nuclear deal with Iran to its development of ballistic missiles, sponsorship of terrorist acts and weapons proliferation to terrorist groups, three senior Israeli government officials said.

The focus is on persuading U.S. and European lawmakers to strengthen “snapback” mechanisms imposing sanctions for Iranian activities that aren’t directly connected to its nuclear program, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“The goal should be a strategy that wins the support of European and hopefully Russian and Chinese and other international actors, rather than one that is a U.S.-Israel, go-it- alone strategy,” said Dan Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Beyond contributing intelligence, Israel “should work with the administration on a compelling diplomatic approach that demonstrates that there’s a willingness to work with other countries to build pressure on Iran, not just to dictate terms,” said Shapiro, now a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Pres. Trump said Oct. 13 he would no longer certify that the nuclear agreement with Iran serves U.S. national security interests, in a speech that closely mirrored Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s call on the deal’s backers to “fix it or nix it.”

Pres. Trump promised new sanctions on Iran, particularly its hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and threatened to terminate the agreement unless signatories addressed what he says are its shortcomings.

Before the deal was signed in 2015, PM Netanyahu told allies its biggest weakness was the failure to cover Iran’s use of Hezbollah, Hamas and other groups that Israel considers terrorists as proxy militias to threaten regional foes. Now Israel is using attacks, public statements and intelligence information it has collected over the past two years to show how Iran has exploited the accord, the officials said.

The Israeli government thinks broadening the two-year-old accord to punish Iran for involvement in terrorism, and removing clauses that phase out restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program after a decade, would be better than scrapping it outright, the officials said.