On the eve of Purim, a signed agreement resurrecting the Iran deal looms imminent. For those who forgot, another lucrative agreement between a politician and a Persian ruler signed 2,500 years ago was also intended to annihilate the Jewish people. Still, it didn’t work out as planned.
Removing the sanctions
Rafael Grossi, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy, said in an interview with France 24 on Tuesday that as long as Russia receives written guarantees from the US that its demands will be met, all of the involved parties are on the verge of finalizing an agreement on the recent talks being held in Vienna. As one of the parties in the deal, Russia demanded that a condition for signing would be removing the sanctions placed on them due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
This news comes after US officials insisted that the two issues would not be connected in the negotiations.
“We need guarantees that sanctions [over Ukraine] will not affect in any way the regime of trade, economic and investment ties set out in the JCPOA on Iran’s nuclear program,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. “We asked our American colleagues (because they are running the whole show here) to give us guarantees in writing, at least at the level of the Secretary of State, that the current process launched by the U.S. will not impinge in any way on our free full-scale trade, economic, investment and military-technical cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Assurances from Venezuela
Russia also demanded the agreement include assurances from Venezuela to control oil prices.
On Sunday, Iranian negotiators told the media that record-high global oil prices due to the Ukrainian conflict gave Iran the upper hand in the Vienna talks. It should use the opportunity to press its demands.
In 2021, President Biden said the US would return to the deal if Iran comes back into compliance, though Iran’s leaders have insisted that Washington lift sanctions first.
Coinciding with Purim
If the deal does get signed on Thursday or Friday, it will coincide with the holiday of Purim (The holiday begins Wednesday evening and ends on Thursday evening, but in Jerusalem, it is celebrated 24 hours later). This would be remarkable as negotiations have been ongoing for 11 months. And, of course, the holiday of Purim commemorates the miraculous reversal, turning the existential threat from the Persian/Iranian government into divine salvation.
A Biblical perspective
Rabbi Pinchas Winston, a prolific end-of-days author, weighed the possibility of a successful Iran deal with stability.
“If you give Biden a penny for his thoughts, you better ask for change,” Rabbi Winston quipped. “They are clearly not thinking this through. They could have chosen any day of the year to sign this deal, but pushing to sign an anti-Israel deal with Iran on Purim displays total ignorance. It is astounding. But that is typical of the enemies of Israel.”
“In this case, the Iran deal is, of course, a direct existential threat to Israel. But now that the negotiations have revealed the battle lines, Iran and Russia allying together, it is obvious, or at least it should be, that this endangers the entire world.”
“Of course, they are pushing to get power, but they really are not running things. Hashem is running world events, manipulating them to move us towards the prophetic conclusion. It is all written, but these leaders manage to miss the obvious.”
“Anyone can see that everything is falling into place,” Rabbi Winston said.
A brief history
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, was brokered by former President Barack Obama and signed in 2015 by the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany along with the European Union). In 2018, President Trump withdrew the US from that deal.
Under its terms, Iran agreed to dismantle much of its pre-existing nuclear weapons program and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections in exchange for billions of dollars worth of sanctions relief.
Critics claim the agreement would only delay Iran building a bomb while sanctions relief would allow it to underwrite terrorism in the region. Key restrictions on weapons-grade enriched uranium and plutonium production expire after 10 and 15 years, permitting Iran to expand its nuclear capacities and significantly reduce the time it would need to produce nuclear weapons if it chose to do so in the future. In addition, Iran has insisted that the deal be conditioned on the immediate removal of all economic sanctions. An unrestrained market for Iranian oil, especially given current conditions, would vastly empower the Islamic regime, thereby enhancing its ability to produce a nuclear weapon and improve its military.
In January 2018, Israel’s Mossad intelligence service seized over 50,000 pages of documents and 160 compact discs of data from a Tehran warehouse that housed Iran’s clandestine nuclear archive, confirming that Iran had worked in the past to systematically assemble everything it needed to produce atomic weapons. The deal does not impede Iran’s destabilizing regional behavior and worsens the problem.
For this reason, many countries in the Middle East have aligned against the US-led effort to revive the deal.
In the interim, Iran has boosted its uranium enrichment to 60 percent using advanced centrifuges, well past the limits set by the JCPOA and past any civilian use. But the Iranian regime still maintains that it will never seek a nuclear weapon. Iran has also run tests in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles in contravention of agreements signed with the UN. But it maintains that these long-range missiles are for national defense.
Despite claims by the Biden administration that the JCPOA will permanently prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, many lawmakers are convinced that is not true. On Monday, 49 senators announced their opposition to reviving the JCPOA. This represents almost all 50 Republican senators in the 100-member US Senate. Their criticism was three-fold: 1) the JCPOA does not “completely block” Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon; 2) it does not limit Iran’s ballistic missile program; 3) it does not “confront Iran’s support for terrorism.”
Signing a new agreement as an executive agreement, Iran has insisted that this be done to ensure that future administrations could not reverse the deal. This seems unlikely as it would require congressional approval of two-thirds, and the JCPOA currently has nearly overwhelming opposition.
But the Biden administration could bypass a congressional vote by adopting the JCPOA as a treaty. It has also been suggested that the administration could try to slide the new agreement through as if it was the previous agreement that had received congressional approval.