Israel’s military chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi on January 26 warned the United States against rejoining the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and said that its military was refreshing its operational plan against Tehran. While speaking at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, Kochavi said that a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement or even its similar accord with several improvements is “bad and wrong” from an operational and strategic point of view. His comments came as Israel and Iran are both seeking to put pressure on US President Joe Biden ahead of his expected announcement on his approach for dealing with the Iranian nuclear programme.
The 2015 nuclear deal has been largely in tatter since former US President Donald Trump withdrew from it unilaterally in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions as part of a policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was agreed between Iran, the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany. It offered sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear ambitions and guarantees it would not seek an atomic bomb. Iran has maintained that it has only pursued a civilian nuclear energy programme, however, Trump withdrew from the deal and bolstered sanctions on Tehran in a bid to force them into talks on a broader agreement that also addressed its ballistic missile programs and support for proxies around the Middle East.
Now, the newly minted US President Biden has said that he will seek to revive the deal, with some changes. However, Israel has strongly opposed the deal, saying that it did not include sufficient safeguards to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. On his Tuesday’s address, Kochavi said that a return to the deal is bad operationally and strategically. He said that allowing Iran to proceed with a nuclear programme would be “an unacceptable threat and will lead to nuclear proliferation across the region”.
The Israeli military chief went on to also said that given the threat posed by Iran, Israel’s military would be prepared to attack on its own if needed. He said, “I instructed the army to prepare a number of operational plans in addition to the existing ones. We are taking care of these plans and will develop them during the coming year. Those who decide on carrying them out, of course, are the political leaders. But these plans have to be on the table”.
It is worth mentioning that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has previously threatened possible strikes against Iran in the rUn-up to the accord. But Biden, on the other hand, has hinted at rejoining the deal, giving Iran hope that things could return back to normal under his administration. Antony Blinken, who has been nominated by Biden as his Secretary of State, also said that the new administration will make a quick decision on whether to rejoin the Iran deal.