The Jerusalem Post
Four major Iran nuclear standoff developments
There were four major developments on Wednesday and in recent days which will have major impacts on the future of the Iranian nuclear standoff.
1. Ahmedinejad ‘reveals’ who Mossad recruited within Iranian intelligence to steal nuclear secrets.
Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told Iran International that the Mossad recruited the highest-ranking Iranian counter-intelligence official in charge of catching Israeli spies in order to steal the Islamic Republic’s nuclear secrets.
The January 31, 2018, raid altered the region’s geopolitics, leading to the US withdrawing from the JCPOA nuclear deal and setting the International Atomic Energy Agency into a years-long conflict with the Islamic Republic that lasts to this day.
Even earlier this month, Iran was nervous that a new condemnation from the IAEA could undermine its chances of reaching a deal with the US to lift sanctions.
Ahmadinejad did not give any specific names, details or proof, seemingly suggesting that there was no way the Israeli spy agency could have succeeded in such an audacious operation without high-up inside help from Tehran’s own spy agencies.
Analysts have long speculated about who in Iran the Mossad recruited in order to find out where the nuclear files were held, exactly how to thwart the security measures that were in place and exactly how to burn into the tough file cabinets to procure the files.
Though without evidence, Ahmadinejad’s statement is one of the first semi-specific theories offered by any senior officials.
Iran’s intelligence service dismissed Ahmadinejad as deranged and thought such a characterization to be self-serving, because the former president does have an ax to grind against the agency and the ruling class.
Not only did Ahmadinejad fall out of favor with Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after a dispute with Iran’s intelligence agency, but the ruling class then disqualified him from running in the last two elections, including one scheduled for June 18.
Ahmadinejad’s interview could be a way to get revenge as well as being an attempt to present himself to the Iranian public as a patriot who is being silenced from telling the truth.
2. Impact of Biden-Putin summit on Iran-Israel nuclear standoff.
The high points of the summit will probably be the global powers’ general relationship, cyber attacks and nuclear issues.
But Iran and talks to return to the JCPOA are undoubtedly also being addressed as a wide range of personnel are involved in the meetings to cover many topics.
This could be a seminal moment for Iran and the nuclear standoff.
When Russia and the US are on opposite sides of the issue, as they have been since at least mid-2018, the Islamic Republic has significant backing to hold out for more concessions and to try to harass those it is negotiating with.
Imperfect as it was, many analysts were stunned in real-time at some of the concessions Tehran made as part of the JCPOA. One of the main reasons it did so was because Moscow leaned into the issue with Washington.
Both the outgoing and incoming Israeli governments oppose a return to the JCPOA. But there are different versions of returning. Some paths include destroying Iran’s advanced centrifuges and others just put them on ice. Some include leaving the door open to an add-on deal later to fix some of the JCPOA’s holes, while others leave the holes as is.
Any US-Russia détente on these issues to get Iran to compromise could only be to Israel’s advantage.
If there is no Biden-Putin détente, getting the Islamic Republic to concede anything new will be that much harder.
3. Delusional and bizarre Khamenei speech.
On Wednesday, Khamenei gave a speech aimed at getting the general public to vote in large numbers on June 18.
Khamenei warned his citizens that a low turnout would be used by enemy foreigners to try to ridicule and destabilize the country.
He said that “the Western media and enemies seek to undermine and weaken Iran, stressing that people’s participation in elections will secure the country against foreign plots.”
Retreating into the medieval language that he often uses to rally support or lash out when he is on the defensive, Khamenei painted a picture of “satanic powers” trying to brainwash the Iranian public into not voting whereas voting could lead to religious rewards since it was a good religious deed.
Khamenei did not bother to confront the fact that he and his Guardian Council are the reason voter turnout will likely be at an all-time low on June 18.
Having disqualified all serious contenders for his clear preference – hardliner and Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi – Khamenei’s Guardian Council made the current election far more illegitimate in the eyes of the Iranian public than previous ones.
If in previous elections, the public knew that some major reformist figures were disqualified by Khamenei, they could at least vote for top figures from the pragmatist camp.
In contrast, the Guardian Council during the current election cycle even disqualified the current vice president and a former parliament speaker who were leading pragmatists, to ensure there will be no chance for anyone to beat Raisi.
As if to accentuate this point, of the tiny list of seven candidates who the Guardian Council allowed to run, two dropped out on Wednesday, with one endorsing Raisi.
4. IAEA chief says no nuclear deal until after June 18 election.
Reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear accord will have to await the formation of a new Iranian government, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog said in remarks published on Wednesday, adding that a deal needed political will from all parties.
“Everyone knows that, at this point, it will be necessary to wait for the new Iranian government,” Rafael Grossi said in an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica, in reply to a question about what stage negotiations on the deal were at.
Grossi’s statement was an example of rhetorical whiplash, since he had warned only slightly earlier in June that a deal must be struck imminently, or time will run out.
That statement was interpreted as Grossi pressing hard for a deal before the June 18 election so as to rally support for Iran’s pragmatists.
Iran’s new president is expected to name his cabinet by mid-August. The term of current President Hassan Rouhani ends on August 3, a government spokesman said.
The sixth round of talks to revive the deal resumed in Vienna on Saturday between Iran and world powers.
Grossi’s latest viewpoint is likely just a pragmatic recognition that with two days left until Election Day, he will be stuck working with Raisi to try to solve the nuclear standoff.