Iran and world powers are “very likely” to sign an agreement on Tehran's nuclear program soon, Israeli officials said Thursday.
The agreement will be a version of the original nuclear agreement the United States withdrew from in 2018, with minor changes and updates, the sources said.
Israeli officials have recently been briefed about major progress in the talks toward a nuclear agreement, which they assess will be signed soon.
Although the updates to the agreement have not been revealed in full, Israel is expected to oppose it for two main reasons. One is because the original agreement doesn’t fully halt the Iranian nuclear program, but rather focuses mainly on restricting uranium enrichment. This means Tehran could continue to develop missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The second reason is that the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 include a specific time frame and is due to expire in about eight years. Unless the timetable is updated, some of the agreement’s clauses are scheduled to expire earlier, in the next few years. This would enable Iran to renew its enrichment with no restrictions.
The scientific and technical proficiency Iran has accumulated since the United States withdrew from the agreement under former President Donald Trump may enable it to rapidly ramp up the enrichment after the agreement expires. Furthermore, Israel doubts that effective oversight will be in place to prevent Iran from continuing its nuclear efforts covertly.
The decision to return to the original agreement, subject to minor changes, is not self-evident. After Iran led the talks to a dead end, Washington suggested an alternative to the original agreement and to advance a partial interim agreement on topics both sides agree on.
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Israel has not rejected the possibility that it would support an interim agreement if it consists of clauses that dramatically restrict Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons for a long time.
Iran meanwhile denied a report quoting diplomats on the contents of a deal taking shape. "Misinformation disguised as reporting is dangerous," Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, tweeted. "The final deal to let the US return to the JCPOA will be far from the unsourced spin making the rounds. It won't be a bilateral agreement either."
The report had said the deal spells out steps to be implemented before sanctions are waived.