Israel is unable to control Iran single-handedly, and it shouldn’t

A standoff with the Biden administration can be avoided.

The Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh’s killing has been largely blamed on Israel; however, they have not admitted responsibility. Mohsen was regarded as the nuclear weapons program’s father in the Islamic Republic.

Different theories have circulated about the reason Israel took this action now, if at all it did. Israel may be trying to entrap Joe Biden, the President-elect before he assumes office. It makes it very challenging for him to continue with the nuclear agreement established during the administration of Obama and Biden, as he has promised to, if Iran becomes defiant again.

A different theory says that murdering Fakhrizadeh might have been a result of Israel’s numerous attempts to thwart the nuclear program in Iran, which may have involved secret activities. An activity like this would possibly have had to be strategized long ago and carried out when a chance presented itself.

A third theory that overlaps the other two alleges that Israel acted after the Trump administration gave its permission while getting ready for a different period as it faces challenges with Iran after Biden assumes office.

The above theories are not equally unique and maybe combining the three might be correct. The important factor now in the pact between the U.S. and Israel is whether the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration is aware that it has a chance to set up the same plan involving Iran with a Biden administration.  Also, the Biden administration believes it should be receptive to Israeli options and research if it desires to work jointly with Israel on the Iranian threat. On its own, Israel can’t control Iran; it need not do so.

Biden said in an interview recently that he aimed to return the United States to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).  The nuclear agreement was drawn up in 2015 between the United States and Iran, France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and Germany. In 2018 President Trump excluded the United States from it, and the agreement’s nuclear-restrictions-for-sanctions-relief formula, in case Iran agrees with its regulations.

Netanyahu issued a contradictory message last month that seemed to target Biden. ‘Reverting to the earlier nuclear agreement is not an option.’

Trump was Netanyahu’s favorite; Biden will be ideal for Israel.

When the two statements are taken into consideration, there may be a standoff as the new U.S. administration begins, which might be detrimental to the alliance between friends. However, Israel and the United States have previously resolved their conflict about Iran policy.

Even though the JCPOA triggered a nasty conflict, for instance, Netanyahu’s speech in 2015 in Congress castigating the agreement and before that, for many years the two states had joined forces and effectively handled Iran. They exchanged intelligence, worked together on sanctions setup and implementation, and used or created military or covert options.

Afterward when the discussions with Iran were at an advanced stage, the different U.S. and Israeli opinions overruled earlier agreements. Variations in the two countries’ sizes, their military abilities, and their physical nearness to Iran’s threat signified that the United States and Israel, as to be expected had varied rates of risk perseverance over the stipulations of the agreement.

But, some security establishment members in Israel were open-minded, in contrast to Netanyahu’s outright refusal. An ex-head of military intelligence in Israel, Amos Yadlin disputes that at the beginning of its term, for many years JCPOA experienced challenges because of the stringent restrictions implemented on the nuclear program in Iran and difficulties years later after the restrictions lapsed, enabling Iran to make advancements in its nuclear program.

Netanyahu failed to stop the agreement. However, in 2016, following Trump’s election, the Prime Minister encountered a President with similar misgivings, who was ready to back out of the agreement. However, even from the perspective of Israel, the outcomes of Trump’s ‘intense pressure’ tactic with Iran have been varied. Iran’s economy has suffered because of the sanctions implemented by the U.S. However, Iran has also once more began enriching uranium and Biden describes it as ‘drawing nearer to the capability of having sufficient material for a nuclear weapon.’

The Arab Gulf states and Israel are happy with Trump’s tactic; however, it has destroyed the global relationship that was the foundation of JCPOA.

It is Israel’s responsibility to stop the nuclear program in Iran. Previously, they took the following steps:

Biden’s win signifies that there will be a different tactic. Israel needs to prepare its arguments beforehand, in high-level discussions between the two countries. However, it cannot dictate the U.S. policy and will, therefore, have to brace itself for when Biden tries to re-join the agreement. It means creating a similar plan to stop Iran from accessing nuclear weapons that surpass JCPOA’s remaining years. It uses all the tools, economic, military, covert, and diplomatic; in the two countries’ toolboxes.

Biden’s administration should remember that Israel will still consider a nuclear weapon in Iran as an existing threat and similar to any independent state, it will take the action it deems necessary to safeguard itself. Regarding this, Biden and Antony Blinken, his secretary of state-designate, who have supported Israel’s security know what to expect.

The U.S. is also going to gain if discussions with Israel extend beyond JCPOA’s narrow question, where they will be at loggerheads. Firstly, this might be a controversial question. When Biden assumes office, compliance might be too far gone, making it impossible to return. He needs to check whether any of the bans Trump implemented provide a basis to compel Iran to concede in extending JCOPOA’s terms. Biden may remove them, but, if required, he will still have the mandate to threaten their re-implementation and Iran is aware that they have the upper hand.

Israel should bear in mind the kind of extension the JCPOA may choose that would give the guarantee that Iran is still going to be non-nuclear while trying to get more time to acquire a more effective solution. Biden’s team is also aware that although Iran’s nuclear possibility might be its most dangerous threat, it has other violent acts like the ones below, which should be dealt with:

–  Creating sophisticated ballistic weapons.

–  Providing regional proxies like the Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hezbollah.

–  Trying to surround Israel with a circle of precision-guided missiles.

At the beginning of this year, the national security adviser-designate of Biden’s administration, Jake Sullivan and Daniel Benaim, Biden’s Middle East policy adviser, requested for a ‘structured regional discussion’ to deal with diplomacy, boosted by restrictions and other steps when needed. It should make sure that whether Israel is present in the discussions or not, its interests are represented.

What is the most effective way to handle Iran? The nuclear agreement that Trump rejected.

An effective solution to solving the issue of controlling Iran should be the highlight of this collaboration between the U.S. and Israel. Biden requested for a more powerful and longer agreement, which will guarantee that Iran fails to attain a nuclear weapon in the future. It would entail having more stringent inspection procedures and application to other harmful technologies like ballistic missiles.

He has clarified that he has no tolerance for Iran’s risky regional role and appreciates that Israel needs to take action against threats like the Iranian military mechanisms in Syria. These stances, the various pressures and incentives set to push Iranian calculations toward a series of permanent understandings are possible convergence points with Israel and different regional players.

In the end, Israel and the U.S. have the right to differ on some matters. However, they would both benefit if they combined efforts, where Iran is concerned. Israel possesses the ability and political will to carry out operations that are similar to the Fakhrizadel murder. However, it is not practical for Israel to engage Iran without restrictions if doing this is the complete opposite of a U.S. administration’s amiable plan. That is, looking for the same strategic objective of stopping an Iranian nuclear weapon permanently, and at the same time guarding other important U.S. assets.

People in the two governments who anticipate an inevitable disagreement between friends should take a step back and think. Israel and the United States will go on having the same objectives; an Iran without nuclear, which poses no threats to its neighbors and does not wish to harm them.

A great variety of tools are available in the long, medium, and short term for a collective strategy to attain them. An early commitment to solve the conflict on tactical queries and jointly focus on similar strategic goals will serve the U.S. better for the alliance between the U.S. and Israel, and a more comprehensive way of controlling Iran.