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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech on Iran's nuclear program on April 30, 2018, in Tel Aviv. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. policy has long strived to prevent an Israeli–Iranian war. This is largely what motivated nuclear diplomacy with Iran, culminating in the 2015 nuclear deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

So when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu took to the cameras on Monday to denounce Iran and its past behavior — something he has done for nearly two decades — it was, in the words of Yogi Berra, déjà vu all over again.

Why it matters: Although talking about Iranian nukes could bolster Netanyahu’s domestic support as he navigates corruption scandals, his maneuver is fraught with risks. If Netanyahu succeeds in his gambit to persuade President Trump to terminate the JCPOA, the guardrails preventing the development of an Iranian bomb — and further Israeli–Iranian confrontation — will disappear, too.

Netanyahu has a lot on his mind these days. Not only are the Israeli police hot on his trail in a corruption probe, but the country's northern border is under deeply unpredictable security threats. Syria is in collapse, with Iran, its militias and jihadist terrorist groups roaming the country freely. Israel now conducts airstrikes there on a routine basis, which has heightened tensions with both Russia and Iran. And then there is Lebanon, which is essentially a Hezbollah mini-state.

It’s no wonder that Netanyahu has gone to the well one more time to distract from these ills by conjuring up new Iranian nuclear nightmares, despite the success of the JCPOA in mitigating such threats.

The bottom line: If Netanyahu's latest fulmination ends up encouraging Trump to undo the Iran deal, there’s no telling how far Israeli–Iranian hostility — and potential direct military conflict — will go.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

Go deeper

Updated 16 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

17 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.

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