US Sullivan and Israeli Bennett seek unity to contain Iran nuclear program
TEL AVIV — President Biden’s national security adviser met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday as the two allies sought to present a more united front on Iran’s nuclear program following the emergence of divisions between the United States and Israel.
Israeli officials say they have pushed the United States to take a more forceful approach to Tehran if talks in Vienna fail, and they are openly planning a military strike against Iran. The Biden administration takes a more cautious stance and views economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure as better options than a military attack.
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting in Jerusalem, Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, said world leaders were at a critical juncture and that the United States and Israel must develop a common strategy to contain the Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
MM. Sullivan and Bennett stressed that the United States and Israel are united in warning Iran that time is running out for Tehran to seriously negotiate ways to curb its nuclear program in talks in Vienna with the United States, the United States. European powers, Russia and China. These talks are expected to resume soon, after little progress has been made.
Mr. Bennett alluded to the divisions before sitting down with Mr. Sullivan and US officials.
“Being so strong and having this meaningful friendship means that we can also speak openly and frankly about the common challenges we face,” he said. “What is happening in Vienna has profound ramifications for the stability of the Middle East and the security of Israel. “
In recent weeks, Israeli leaders have stepped up their public criticism of the US approach to talks with Iran and have made it clear that they are ready to go their own way if they fail to agree on a strategy. unified with America.
Israeli officials on Wednesday said they were encouraged by Sullivan’s visit and were assured the United States was ready to continue a tougher approach with Iran if the ongoing talks failed.
An Israeli official said Mr Sullivan made it clear that the Biden administration always preferred to strike a reasonable deal with Iran, but said if that was not available, they were prepared to follow a different path.
Israel has pushed for increased economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran during nuclear negotiations, as well as for negotiators to pose a credible military threat if the talks fail, a second Israeli official said. As part of the talks, Israeli officials have called on the United States for greater cooperation in intelligence matters on Iran and its regional allies.
“The question is: if there is no agreement, what happens next? Said the second Israeli official, who stressed that Israel only sees a military operation as the last option.
High-level Israeli concerns were evident on the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth, one of the country’s largest newspapers, which featured a full-page photo of the new Israeli Air Force commander and a bold headline in Hebrew: “Can you attack Iran tomorrow?” ? Yes.”
Major General Tomer Bar told the newspaper: “There is no situation in which we are operating there and I am not coming home saying, ‘I have accomplished the mission.
Earlier this month, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he told US officials he asked the military to prepare a new plan to strike Iran.
On Wednesday, Gantz said world leaders must step up pressure on Tehran.
“Iran is playing for time – and our shared responsibility, of the world powers and the countries of the region, is to turn the hourglass and show the leaders of the Iranian regime that time is really working against them,” he said. he said at a press conference. Force graduation ceremony.
Iranian officials say their nuclear program is peaceful and not aimed at manufacturing a weapon. Iranian negotiators say they are speaking in good faith with world powers about the nuclear deal, which they blame the United States for leaving.
Iran has responded to Israeli threats of military force with a promise of retaliation. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a powerful branch of the Iranian military, began its annual war games in the Persian Gulf this week. A great Iranian general, Gholamali Rashid, declared that those responsible for any strike against Iran would be “decisively attacked”.
Mr Sullivan’s visit to Israel coincided with another warning from Rob Malley, the Biden administration’s key man for talks with Iran.
Mr Malley said it was only a matter of weeks before efforts to revive the nuclear containment deal with Iran completely collapsed.
The deal brokered by then-President Barack Obama offered sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for constraints on its nuclear program. Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 after becoming president.
As talks with the United States and its allies have collapsed, Iran has taken further steps to advance its nuclear program, including the production of 60% enriched uranium, which brings the country closer to manufacturing military grade nuclear fuel, which is about 90%. Israeli leaders have warned that Tehran must be stopped one way or another.
“At some point in the not-so-distant future we will have to conclude that the JCPOA no longer exists and we will have to negotiate a totally different deal and we will go through a period of escalating crisis,” Malley said in a statement. interview Tuesday with CNN. The agreement is officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
After a series of meetings with Israeli leaders on Iran, Sullivan traveled to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. The Biden administration has worked to rejuvenate the United States’ relationship with the Palestinian leader, which reached a low point when Mr. Trump was in the White House.
The pair discussed ways to get the moribund peace talks with Israel back on track and other steps that could be taken to improve the lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian Authority news agency.
Corrections and amplifications
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he told US officials he asked the military to prepare a new plan to strike Iran. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the new plan was to strike at Israel. (Corrected December 22)
—Vivian Salama, Laurence Norman, Fatima AbdulKarim and Aresu Eqbali contributed to this article.
Write to Dion Nissenbaum at [email protected]
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