A former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander on Monday threatened to attack Israel if the United States replies to Iran’s awaited military response to the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

“If the US takes any action after our military response, we will level Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground,” Mohsen Rezayee, the Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, said in comments published the by Fars News Agency.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday referred to Israel as a “nuclear power,” before insisting it was a slip of the tongue.

The United States, in assassinating Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, has effectively killed off any hopes of keeping the Islamic Republic compliant with a 2015 nuclear agreement, let alone signing a “better deal” during the tenure of President Donald Trump.

Iran late Sunday announced it would no longer abide by enrichment limits set by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the US unilaterally exited in May 2018.

The move to resume an unhindered quest for nuclear power came days after the US assassinated Iran’s top general in an airstrike on his convoy leaving Baghdad airport.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, seen weeping at the slain general’s funeral, vowed “severe revenge” against the United States.

President Trump, in turn, has threatened to bomb Iranian cultural heritage sites should Tehran retaliate by striking American assets or personnel.

Protecting the program

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who has long sought to salvage the deal by urging European partners to defy US sanctions, emphasized that Iran’s step away from enrichment limits was “within JCPOA” and “reversible.”

“Iran’s full cooperation w/IAEA will continue,” he tweeted, referring to the global nuclear watchdog.

For the past year Iran has been steadily downgrading its commitments to the JCPOA, the moderate Rouhani administration each time emphasizing its decisions were reversible should European partners and other signatories find a way to defy US sanctions and make good on their end of the bargain.

But November 2018 sanctions on Iran’s critical petroleum sector have made foreign investment all but impossible and brought oil exports to a trickle.

The goal of President Hasan Rouhani, will now be “to keep multilateral diplomacy going as Trump grows more erratic,” according to Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, the founder of Bourse & Bazaar, a media company that supports business diplomacy between Europe and Iran.

“Not just as a bulwark against war, but also so that if there is a change of policy or change of leadership in Washington, however unlikely, Iran and the international community are ready to capitalize.”

The fact that Tehran has not declared the deal dead, Batmanghelidj says, means that key political stakeholders in Iran – including both moderates and hardliners – remain in consensus that multilateral diplomacy is the best way to protect the country’s nuclear program.