23 Apr

Historical Background

  • In July 1977, Lieutenant General was sent by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. Hassan Toufanian, his Deputy Minister of War and Armaments, to Israel to hold secret talks with the newly formed government of Menachem Begin from the Likud Party.
  • In April 1977, the Shah had signed six 'oil for arms' contracts with Shimon  Peres, the Defense Minister in the previous Labor party government.
  • One of the agreements, known under the code name "Flower," involved Israel modifying its advanced surface-to-surface missiles for sale to Iran.
  • Gen. Toufanian met Major General Ezer Weizman(7th President of Israel), Defense Minister in the Begin government, and both of them agreed to build a military co-production line where Israel has to provide the technical know-how and Iran the finances and test sites.
  • As part of it, Israel promised to supply Iran ballistic surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 700 kilometers that could carry a nuclear warhead.

Shift in policy

  • The l979 revolution brought down the Shah's monarchy in Iran and turned the country into a theocratic republic.
  • The shift not just radically altered Iran but the whole region as well.
  • Had the Islamic Revolution not occurred, Iran might have possessed nuclear missiles supplied by Israel in the 1980s capable of striking deep into the Sunni kingdoms across the Persian Gulf.
  • The revolution moved Iran, one of the natural powers in the region in terms of resources, geography, and population, from an American ally to its top enemy.
  • For the Sunni Gulf monarchies, the presence of a Shia theocratic republic across the Gulf waters not only presented geopolitical challenges but also raised existential and ideological concerns.
  • For Israel, West Asia's only nuclear power country, its most prominent rival was just born.
  • Despite their common concerns, these three pillars couldn't unite immediately due to pre-existing contradictions between Israel and the Arab world.
  • Four decades later, with Iran's regional influence continuing to grow despite American sanctions, Israel and the Arab world are now aligning, facilitated by the United States, to confront their mutual adversary.

Octopus doctrine

  • A covert conflict is already underway between Israel and Iran.
  • Israel has conducted clandestine operations within Iran, focusing on disrupting its nuclear and missile initiatives.
  • Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett coined the term "Octopus doctrine," advocating for striking at the core of the threat rather than merely its peripheral elements.
  • Iran has also responded with drone attacks, targeting Israeli operatives in northern Iraq.
  • Also, the naval conflict between the countries, where ships linked to them have come under attacks in the Gulf, Arabian and the Mediterranean waters, is escalating.

How will the JCPOA deal will transform Iran?

  • The anti-Iran alliance in West Asia, comprising the U.S., Israel, and the Gulf kingdoms, is united in their agreement that Iran's nuclear program should be thwarted.
  • Should Iran attain nuclear capabilities, even without developing a bomb, it has the potential to shift the regional balance of power, currently tilted in favor of Israel.
  • Israel and the Gulf kingdoms expressed dissatisfaction with the JCPOA, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
  • Because in return for limiting Iran's nuclear programme, the agreement promised economic rewards to Iran, which could transform Iran into a non-nuclear conventional, mainstream power in West Asia.
  • Israel seeks not only the dismantling of Iran's nuclear program but also the containment of its regional ascendancy.
  • Israel witnessed its concerns being acknowledged in Washington when the Trump administration opted to unilaterally withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear deal and reinstate sanctions on Iran in 2018.

What is maximum pressure, maximum resistance policy?

  • Former U.S. President Donald Trump thought the administration's "maximum pressure approach" would force Iran to back away and return to the table to renegotiate the deal.
  • The U.S wanted concessions from Iran on its weapons programmes and regional activism (support for non-state actors).
  • But Iran took a "maximum resistance" policy.
  • Additionally, Iran escalated its support for its proxies, particularly the Houthis in Yemen, who now present a direct security threat to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • Iran began enriching significant quantities of uranium to higher purities and advancing the development of sophisticated centrifuges.
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