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Nathan Shahar: Iran is hesitant between retaliation against Israel or rapprochement with the United States after the sabotage against the nuclear power plant in Natanz

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who is close to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused Israel of this act. “The response will be done in the framework of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter,” the Foreign Ministry in Tehran said. The article regulates the right of states to self-defense in the event of an armed attack.

In the first hours after the explosion, Iranian state-controlled media claimed that a power failure had hit the plant, as centrifuges separate the rare uranium isotope U-235 from the natural uranium. According to the Nuclear Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), “Only the old centrifuges were damaged and will now be replaced by modern equipment.” Speakers later stated that “the identity of the perpetrator is known” and that he is being investigated. They also said that an explosion opened a hole seven meters deep.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Photo: Vahid Salmi / TT

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The President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani.

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Photo: AY-COLLECTION / SIPA / Shutterstock

Casualties after Sunday’s attack Israeli sources told the New York Times that it is widespread and would delay Iran’s nuclear program for nearly a year. The Israeli leaks appear to have spoken with the good memory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The intention is to pressure the United States not to make concessions to Iran during the ongoing talks in Geneva, where Russia, Germany and France are mediating between the United States and Iran. According to critics at home, Netanyahu has another motive to fuel the conflict with Iran: the election campaign underway this summer if no camp succeeds in forming a government after the March 23 elections. The war against Iran and its plans to eliminate Israel are the most enduring staples of Netanyahu’s program during the election campaign.

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On the one hand, Iranian leaders understand that Netanyahu hopes to provoke them into a response that might upset the United States and perhaps encourage the pro-Israel Democrats in Washington to turn against Joe Biden’s Iran policy. The president hopes to re-conclude the major powers’ nuclear deal with Iran from 2015 – something that Donald Trump pulled out of the game in 2018 when the United States withdrew from the deal and imposed painful sanctions on Iran.

On the other hand, there are limits to the number of insults the Iranian regime can endure before it acts so as not to lose face at home. The armed forces, especially the Revolutionary Guard, consistently issue statements that Iran can destroy Israel within five minutes. But in recent years, Israel has stolen the entire archive of Iran’s nuclear program, killing the head of the program and destroying important nuclear facilities at least four times – without any response from Iran.

Iran can add Israel Great damage. The two terrorist attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994, which killed more than a hundred people, were likely an Iranian retaliation for Israeli actions against the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. Iran does not have a modern air force but an advanced missile program, pieces of which are scattered across the region, from Lebanon to Yemen. But so far, the negotiating forces in Tehran have convinced Foreign Minister Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani, Ayatollah Khamenei, to rein in the Revolutionary Guards. What Iran most urgently needs at the moment is not revenge, as they say, but an end to US sanctions.

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Nathan Shahar: Israel has abandoned its traditional policy of attacks