Jerusalem joyful at Trump’s crackdown on Iran

President Donald Trump outlining his administration’s Iran strategy last Friday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

ISRAELI leaders are delighted with Donald Trump’s latest policy on Iran – and it’s not only the much-discussed “decertifying” of the nuclear deal that is making them smile.

The American President has called for Congress to try to fix problems with the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with the West.

And he has decertified the agreement, which means that US sanctions against Iran which it wiped away can now be reimposed if Congress members aren’t happy with tweaks to the deal.

If Congress imposes sanctions, the deal could well crumble. And if Congress fails to strengthen enforcement, blocks Iran’s route to a nuclear missile, and makes permanent guarantees in American law that Iran won’t have nuclear arms, he may intervene to nix the deal.

Trump said that “in the event we are not able to reach a solution, working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated”. He added: “It is under continuous review and our participation can be cancelled by me as President at any time.”

Trump also radically changed the US approach to the relationship between the nuclear deal and Iran’s backing for terror. His predecessor Barack Obama tended to deal with them separately, but Trump’s new strategy involves addressing both the nuclear threat and “the Iranian regime’s hostile actions” in general.

Trump’s focus includes Syria, where Iran is backing the Syrian regime and supporting Hezbollah. Israel is very concerned about Syria, especially this week after the regime there fired towards an Israeli military aircraft that was in Lebanese airspace.

Even though the Syrians missed their target, Israel responded, by striking a Syrian anti-aircraft battery. Israel did so to discourage further Syrian fire – but officials in Jerusalem believe that having the international community rein in Iran is the best way to calm the Syrian regime.

Israel has been calling on Trump to “fix or nix” the Iran deal, and enthusiastically welcomed his move.

“I want to thank President Trump for his courageous speech outlining a new course against Iran, the enemy of our free civilisation,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address on Sunday to a conference in Jerusalem.

Earlier in the day, he said that the Trump announcement creates “an opportunity to fix the nuclear agreement and stop Iran’s increasing aggression in our region”, and suggested that every responsible government should take advantage of the announcement “in order to improve the agreement or abrogate it and, of course, stop Iran’s aggression”.

The new Trump approach of insisting that Iran’s general aggression is addressed alongside the nuclear issue is a major blow to Tehran, and a major boon to Israel which has spent months claiming it is incongruous that a rogue state is getting an embrace from the West without being demanded to change.

Emily Landau, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, noted: “The message is that there is a connection between the different manifestations of Tehran’s nuclear and foreign policies, and that all must be dealt with in tandem in order to effectively confront the threats and regional challenges posed by Iran.”

Trump’s new program covers not just nuclear matters, but also Iran’s missile program, support for terror, and regional aspirations that threaten the national security interests of the US and its allies in the Middle East.

The US administration “has ended the approach of the Obama administration that sought to create a divide between the nuclear and regional manifestations of Iran’s conduct, claiming that the nuclear deal ‘was working,’ and that it was never meant to address other issues”, observed Landau.

Israelis with an inside track on the Iran deal have reacted positively to Trump’s latest position.

The US President has taken “the only reasonable approach,” claimed the diplomat who headed Israel’s foreign service when the West reached its deal with Iran.

Dore Gold, director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry until a year ago, is optimistic about the chances of America fixing problems with the nuclear deal, and reducing the Iranian threat.

“The point to remember is this,” he said. “That it is possible to renegotiate bad agreements, it’s possible to renegotiate a flawed agreement and take out the flaws and presently President Trump’s strategy to reopen the Iran agreement, to remove the flaws and produce an agreement that will safely protect the interests of the West is the only reasonable approach.”