Iran is preparing to sign the new nuclear agreement, Israel's political leadership increasingly believes, although no understandings have been reached so far on a series of issues in dispute between Iran on the one hand and the United States and Europe on the other.
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On Wednesday, political sources in Israel said Iran has begun to prepare public opinion in the country for a possible return to the agreement. “We are definitely seeing that Iran is nearing the agreement," the sources claimed, but added: "This process contradicts the fact that there is no real rapprochement in the positions of the two sides. There is tension between the two contradictory vectors, but the preparation process is creating momentum and more positive discussion in advance of a deal.”
After several months during which Israel offered contradictory assessments regarding Iran’s intention to sign a new agreement, in the past two days senior Israeli officials have voiced similar assessments: Since Tehran conveyed its reply to the draft agreement last Monday, the chances of a treaty have increased significantly, even if still not great.
But Iran and the U.S. are still trying to bridge gaps on key issues that have prevented the signing. Israel is struggling to assess whether it will happen, and a key concern is that the U.S. might go back on some promises to Israel in order to remain flexible and to complete the treaty with Iran.
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Among the points in dispute is the Iranian demand to close the International Atomic Energy Agency investigative files that were opened on suspicion that Iran had violated the agreement. In addition, the Iranian delegation requested guarantees from the U.S. that it will not reimpose sanctions or quit the agreement before its end, a request designed to provide a safety net for Western companies wanting to invest in or trade with Iran who are afraid of being harmed economically by potential future sanctions against them.
“We don’t estimate that there is a genuine intention of a political closure of the open files (in the IAEA),” say the sources. They claim that “This point is one of the significant gaps existing today between the positions of the Iranians and those of the Western countries. Another issue is the guarantees that the Iranians are requesting in the event that any of the signatories decides to withdraw from the treaty in the future.
“In light of the significant gaps that exist, the assessment is that the sides will have to give in on these two issues in order to reach an agreement,” the sources claimed, warning that “Israel considers the present agreement a bad one, and stresses to its partners the danger of signing it. The Iranians are using the well known tactic of foot-dragging and buying time in order to bring about additional concessions.”
“Israel is preparing for various scenarios,” the political sources added.
Iran struck the original nuclear deal in 2015 with the U.S., France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China. The deal granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for tight curbs on its atomic program, including limiting Iran's enrichment of uranium under the watch of UN inspectors.
Since the deal's de facto collapse after the U.S. abandoned it four years ago under former President Donald Trump, Tehran has been running advanced centrifuges and rapidly growing its stockpile of enriched uranium.