Iran Accuses Israel of Joe Biden 'Extortion' by Opposing Nuclear Deal

Iran's mission to the United Nations in Geneva has hit back at Israel after its military chief threatened action against Tehran if President Joe Biden revived the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, an accord Israel considers an existential national security threat.

Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kohavi said earlier this month the military was drawing up attack plans for Iran, and in a rare intervention in foreign policy said he does not think it would be a good idea for Biden to rejoin the JCPOA.

"Iran can decide that it wants to advance to a bomb, either covertly or in a provocative way. In light of this basic analysis, I have ordered the IDF to prepare a number of operational plans, in addition to the existing ones. We are studying these plans and we will develop them over the next year," Kohavi said.

"The government will of course be the one to decide if they should be used. But these plans must be on the table, in existence and trained for."

Kohavi added, "I want to state my position, the position that I give to all my colleagues when I meet them around the world. Returning to the 2015 nuclear agreement or even to an agreement that is similar but with a few improvements is a bad thing and it is not the right thing to do."

Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were supporters of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the JCPOA. It was one of the few nations that stood with the president's decision.

Netanyahu even revealed what Israel claimed was proof that Iran was violating the deal shortly before Trump's withdrawal. The International Atomic Energy Agency has always maintained that Tehran was complying with the JCPOA in full before Trump pulled out in May 2018.

The Biden team and Iranian officials remain committed to reviving the JCPOA, though both are waiting for the other side to make the first step. Iran is demanding American sanctions relief before it scales back its nuclear activity, while the White House says no deal is possible until Iran returns to full JCPOA compliance.

Iran's mission to the UN in Geneva told Newsweek that in the meantime, Tehran will not hesitate to defend itself against any external attack.

The mission said the U.S. withdrawal was the behavior of a "rogue actor." Iranian officials have consistently said Trump's withdrawal means the Biden administration must first remove sanctions before Tehran curbs its nuclear program.

"The Israeli regime played a 'tremendous spoiler' role in pushing the Trump establishment to pull out of the agreement," the Geneva mission told Newsweek in response to Kohavi's threat. "They are just trying to play the same role now through extortion."

"The disparaging threat of using force against a sovereign state reveals, one more time, the contempt the speaker and his regime hold for international law, peace, and security," the mission added, referring to Kohavi.

"It is extremely alarming that the regime feels so unbridled as to threaten other countries away from adhering to international law and the UN Charter. It is also very telling that the Israeli regime regards 'rule of law' as a threat to its national security. Iran will not hesitate to use all its might in defending against any aggression from outlier actors."

Conservatives in the U.S. and allies in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern American allied nations are mobilizing against returning to the JCPOA. Critics argue that Tehran cannot be trusted not to run secret nuclear programs even while publicly complying with the deal, something Israel has long alleged.

JCPOA critics are also concerned that the deal does not cover Iran's ballistic missile program or its use of regional proxy militias, plus the fact that so-called "sunset clauses," meaning curbs on Iranian nuclear activity will expire in 2025.

The Biden team has sought to allay these fears by describing a return to the deal as a platform for a "longer and stronger" nuclear agreement.

Joe Biden waves on White House arrival
President Joe Biden waves as he arrives at the White House in Washington, D.C., on January 29, 2021. The Biden team has sought to allay fears by describing a return to the deal as a platform for a "longer and stronger" nuclear agreement JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images/Getty