Amid the backdrop of significant progress in nuclear talks between Iran and global powers, senior Israeli diplomatic and defense officials were expected to travel to the United States next week to highlight the dangers posed by Iran and to mitigate the potential harm involved in returning to the original nuclear deal.
Next week, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, IDF Military Intelligence Directorate head Maj. Gen. Tamir Haymen, IDF Strategy and Third Circle Directorate commander Maj. Gen. Tal Kalman and other officials will depart for Washington. The Israeli officials are expected to meet with their American counterparts and present Israel’s objections to reviving the nuclear deal in principle, and reservations about certain clauses included in the new deal, details of which have been obtained by Israel.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened a meeting on the emerging nuclear deal and Israel’s intended position in its regard. In attendance were the aforementioned officials slated to depart for Washington, along with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, other senior Foreign Ministry officials and external advisers.
In Israel, officials were coming to terms with the futility of preventing US President Joe Biden from restoring the nuclear deal. Unlike the clashes with the Obama administration over the original nuclear deal in 2015, this time Israel is adopting an approach of mitigating potential fallout. In this context, too, there is little optimism and the impression is that the U.S. administration is eager to return to the nuclear deal at virtually any cost.
On a practical level, the Israeli representatives are expected to make several recommendations. The first – don’t lift sanctions completely and comprehensively, as the administration currently intends to do. Instead, Israel believes the removal of sanctions should be done on the basis of reciprocity, in response to Iran reversing violations of the nuclear deal.
Another step the Israeli officials are expected to propose is stringent oversight of Iran’s nuclear facilities, in the vein of “anytime, anywhere.” Under the 2015 deal, the Iranians were given a three-week warning before international inspectors could enter a sight following suspicions of violations. Israel wants to revoke this clause, which gives the Iranians time to erase evidence and also wants the Americans to include a clause in the new deal that will allow inspectors to visit Iranian nuclear sites without prior warning.
Alongside these amendments, and amid assessments that a new deal is inevitable, the military representatives in the Israeli delegation are also expected to request security guarantees and to enhance intelligence-gathering capabilities.
Also Thursday, meanwhile, a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had reduced the number of centrifuges enriching uranium to up to 60% purity at an above-ground plant at Natanz to one cluster from two.
Iran announced the shift to 60%, a big step toward weapons-grade from the 20% it had previously achieved, in response to an explosion and power cut at Natanz last week that Tehran has blamed on Israel.
“On 21 April 2021, the [IAEA] verified that Iran had changed the mode by which it was producing UF6 enriched up to 60% U-235 at PFEP,” the report said, referring to the above-ground Pilot Fuel Enrichment plant at Natanz and to uranium hexafluoride, the form in which uranium is fed into centrifuges for enrichment.
Iran was now using one cascade, or cluster, of IR-6 centrifuges to enrich to up to 60% and feeding the tails, or depleted uranium, from that process into a cascade of IR-4 machines to enrich to up to 20%, the report said. The IR-4 cascade was previously being used to enrich to up to 60%.
The IAEA report did not say why Iran had made the change or say how many centrifuges are in each cascade. A previous report in February said there were 119 centrifuges in the IR-4 cascade and 133 in the IR-6 one.