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    'Only Russia Can Speak With Trust of Both Iran, Israel' – Ex-Security Aide

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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim that he has proof about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons has sparked a backlash from Tehran, and a request by Moscow on the need to authentic the alleged new evidence. Speaking to Radio Sputnik, former Israeli deputy national security adviser Eran Etzion explained where things can go from here.

    In a speech assisted by a slide presentation and prop binders said to contain 55,000 pages of evidence proving that Iran lied to the world about its nuclear program after signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed President Trump's desire to amend the agreement or withdraw from it. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqhi called the Israeli leader's presentation "nothing but a childish and ridiculous show." 

    Sputnik: Mr. Etzion, what do you make of the timing of Mr. Netanyahu's statement, in light of the upcoming May 12 deadline on the Iran nuclear deal?

    Eran Etzion: The allegations are not new, but the evidence is new, and it's overwhelming. As I understand, specialists from the EU three countries (Germany, France and Britain) and potentially also Russia, and the International Atomic Energy Agency have been offered a free ticket to come to Israel and examine the new evidence themselves.

    I think it's going to be very difficult for the Iranians to simply brush this aside, and even though agreeably this is not pertaining to actual present-day activities by Iran, it does have a direct bearing on the future of the JCPOA.

    Sputnik: Iran has warned that it could employ countermeasures to any 'rash' US steps. How concerning is this for the Israeli government?

    Eran Etzion: Let's think about the US options for a minute, what they are already committed to and which path they're on. They are committed to most probably withdrawing their signature from the JCPOA. 

    Now Trump can decide one of two things. He can decide to continue on the path that he was about to take, and simply withdraw. Now, perhaps he could argue, as I think he already has publicly, that he even has more grounds to do so, because now it's very clear that Iran was lying and they had more illicit activities that they did not report, and so on.

    He can choose another path, which if I were in a position to recommend is what I would recommend: he could summon all the signatories of the JCPOA. After they have examined the new information – obviously there is not a lot of time but it's still enough – and try and put together a comprehensive front comprising all the signatories of the JCPOA and come to Iran and say 'listen, we want to maintain the JCPOA; however, you need to give us new answers to this new information. And if the significance of this new information is that we have some loopholes within the JCPOA, we need to fix them.'

    I would humbly suggest that the international community tries to adopt this kind of approach. Not withdrawing from the JCPOA right now, but using it as a platform to challenge the Iranians to ask for complete and full answers, not what we have been given so far. If the Iranians rise up to the challenge, fine. If not, we have a united international community with a coherent position which can again, down the road, challenge the Iranians to the point where they will have to come clean.

    Sputnik: Now this presentation comes amid reports that Israel might be responsible for hitting Syrian military bases believed to be used by Iranian-backed forces. What are the chances that these recent developments could exacerbate the Iranian-Israeli standoff? It's only going to exacerbate the situation, surely.

    Eran Etzion: Frankly it's very worrying as it is, and yes it might very well escalate. There is a certain kind of linkage between what happens on May 12 and beyond and what happens or doesn't happen in Syria. If the US and perhaps other signatories to the JCPOA will withdraw their signature and opt for a confrontation with Iran on the nuclear issue, it will have a direct bearing on Iranian behavior in Syria and vice-versa.

    To go back to what I've said above, hopefully, if we are going to embark on some sort of diplomatic effort with the Iranians in the context of the JCPOA, it will have a calming effect on the Syrian arena. 

    If we leave the JCPOA aside for a minute and speak about Syria itself, as you know, Iran and Israel have actually confronted [one another] militarily for the first time in their respected histories in a series of very low-level confrontations. Some of them were admitted to, some of them were not. Some of them were initiated by Israel, some initiated by Iran. And yes, there is a clear escalation dynamic. 

    Here, given the fact that we're talking in a Russian media platform, I would say that Russia has a specific role to play. And Russia is probably the only international actor who is in a position to actually speak discreetly but with a high degree of confidence and trust both with the Iranians and with the Israelis.

    The views and opinions expressed by Eran Etzion are those of the expert and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    expert commentary, 'evidence', evidence, nuclear deal, Benjamin Netanyahu, United States, Israel, Russia, Iran
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