Israel awaits Trump Iran decision

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

ISRAEL is out on a limb, as the international community waits for Donald Trump’s decision, expected any day, on the fate of the Iranian nuclear deal.

Jerusalem has been trying hard to find influential allies who will support Trump if he tries to scrap the 2015 agreement between the West and Iran, alter the deal, or toughen the approach to enforcement.

“Either fix it, or cancel it; this is Israel’s position,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month.

Facing recent questions about Iran, Trump said that all will become clear, and then gave a timescale to clarify his intentions which corresponds to next week.

The main options he is considering are believed to fit Israel’s demand to “fix it or cancel it”. Trump has called the deal an “embarrassment” and it is thought possible that he may seek to kill it altogether, change details, or to “decertify” it, meaning withhold his quarterly endorsement and set the stage for Congress to reimpose sanctions.

But to Israel’s disappointment, diplomats from Jerusalem have failed to persuade other powers that backed the deal to join Trump in the sceptics’ camp, and the other signatories, Russia, China, Britain, Germany, France, the European Union and Iran are still strongly behind the agreement. British Prime Minister Theresa May has just given short shrift to her Israeli counterpart Netanyahu.

According to May’s staff she told Netanyahu that Britain is “firmly committed to the deal” which she regards to be “vitally important for regional security”.

Netanyahu argues the opposite, and believes that the deal leaves the door open for Iranian nuclear capability.

But May’s office takes the view that while Iran engages in “destabilising” activity, the deal “neutralised the possibility of the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons for more than a decade”.

Eldad Pardo, an Iran expert at the Hebrew University, told The AJN that some European powers may secretly be more open to a hard-line against Iran, but will be keeping quiet because of their own interests.

He predicted that with or without enthusiasm from other Western countries, Trump is likely to wield his strength against Iran, and lay out a path that is more to Israel’s liking than the current situation.

“You have a totally unpredictable president when it comes to the tactics, but the strategy is clear,” Pardo said. “It’s based on an understanding that Iran needs this deal 100 times more than the US does.”

NATHAN JEFFAY