“We will do everything to prevent Tehran from being about to acquire a bomb”

International negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, in Vienna, Austria, November 29, 2021.

Joshua Zarka is deputy director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, in charge of strategic affairs, in particular the Iranian file. While negotiations on Iranian nuclear power resumed, Monday, November 29 in Vienna, he details the Israeli position. The head of diplomacy, Yaïr Lapid, was to address the issue Tuesday at the Elysee Palace with Emmanuel Macron.

What do you expect from the resumption of negotiations on Iranian nuclear power?

Frankly speaking, we don’t expect it. We do not believe that the Iranians intend to reach an agreement, in return for the United States respecting its commitments. Over the course of the difficulties associated with this process, Iran has continued to move forward with its nuclear program to enrich 60% uranium and produce uranium metal. They have no intention of going back. Under these conditions, the question today is why the Iranians are in Vienna. In our view, this is to gain more time, reduce the pressure on them and make sure that the Chinese and the Russians stay by their side. If they stopped the process completely, it would become problematic for them. But they don’t come back to negotiate in good faith.

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How long do you think it would take Iran now to acquire a nuclear bomb?

Iran will not have a nuclear bomb tomorrow. But the time it takes for the country to complete producing enough 90% fissile material for a nuclear weapon is a matter of weeks, according to our estimates. Its program is therefore very advanced. In terms of its ballistic capabilities, Iran already has missiles capable of sending a half-ton bomb 2,000 kilometers.

The policy of “Maximum pressure” launched by Donald Trump by withdrawing the United States from the 2015 agreement not a failure, given the progress of the Iranian program?

It is too early to tell. We will see at the end of the process: either Iran will be able to acquire a nuclear weapon, and this situation will have to be managed, or it will ultimately agree to put an end to its program. It is not appropriate to say that this policy has been bad because of the advance of the Iranian program. On the contrary, it made it possible to put pressure on the country, because it is obvious that Iran cannot change its attitude without maximum pressure, without being forced to do so by the international community. This is why we have supported this approach. We could even have hoped that this pressure would be even stronger. From 2015 until now, we have tried to convince the international community that the JCPoA agreement was not enough. Everyone understands it now.

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